Pre-adjudicative and adjudicative competence in juveniles and young adults

Behav Sci Law. 2003;21(3):393-410. doi: 10.1002/bsl.543.


There are several different types of legal competence, such as competence to waive Miranda rights, competence to confess, and competence to stand trial. Although it can be surmised that many of the underlying factors that influence the different legal competencies are similar, little research has been conducted to empirically test this hypothesis. In the present study, juveniles' and young adults' understanding and appreciation of their Miranda rights and their ability to stand trial were measured. Age, suggestibility, average grades in school, and frequency of previous police involvement were also examined as possible factors that influence both types of legal knowledge. Results indicated that Miranda competence and adjudicative competence are indeed strongly related, especially for juveniles. Also, age and suggestibility were found to predict Miranda competence, whereas suggestibility and average school grades predicted competence to stand trial. Patterns of findings often diverged for juveniles and young adults. Implications for legal policy are discussed.

Publication types

  • Legal Case
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Crime / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Crime / psychology
  • Criminal Law
  • Female
  • Forensic Psychiatry / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Humans
  • Juvenile Delinquency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • Male
  • Mental Competency / legislation & jurisprudence*
  • United States