Article I, section 20 of the Washington Constitution states that "[a]ll persons charged with crimes shall be bailable by sufficient sureties, except for capital offenses when the proof is evident, or the presumption great." Despite seemingly unequivocal language that this constitutional provision is applicable to "all persons," the Washington Supreme Court, in Estes v. Hopp, declared that juveniles do not have a constitutional right to bail. The Estes court engaged in little constitutional analysis, but instead, reasoned that juvenile proceedings are civil in nature and that article 1, section 20 applies only in criminal proceedings. Central to the Estes court's determination was the parens patriae system of juvenile justice5 that existed in Washington State at the time of the decision. The parens patriae system emphasizes rehabilitation rather than punishment and gives judges broad discretion to act in the best interests of the child. Under this system, juveniles are protected and sheltered by the state, which theoretically molds them into responsible citizens. When the Estes decision was handed down in 1968, Washington, like every other state, had clearly embraced the parens patriae concept of juvenile justice. However, in the twenty-seven years since Estes, Washington's juvenile justice system has undergone a radical transformation. In 1977, Washington adopted a system based primarily on punishment and accountability in contrast to the prior system based on rehabilitation. This Comment argues that because Washington has essentially rejected the parens patriae approach to juvenile justice in favor of a punitive approach, juveniles should be given the same right to bail as their adult counterparts. Section II of this Comment provides an overview of the historical development of juvenile justice in the United States. Section III examines the Washington Supreme Court's interpretation of article I, section 20 in Estes v. Hopp and examines cases from other states in which juveniles' constitutional right to bail has been assessed. This examination is followed in Section IV by a discussion of the transformation that has occurred in Washington since the Estes decision. Finally, Section V explains why, as Washington's juvenile justice system shifts its focus from rehabilitation toward punishment, juveniles should have the same right to bail as adult criminal defendants.
Kathleen A. Baldi, The Denial of a State Constitutional Right to Bail in Juvenile Proceedings: The Need for Reassessment in Washington State, 19 SEATTLE U. L. REV. 573 (1996).