Articles Tagged with juvenile crime

Hundreds of years ago all convicted criminals were housed together, regardless of gender, age, or mental illness. Prisons were filled with a mix of them all, until somebody recognized that there was a problem with the system in 1825. That is when New York House of Refuge was established with the goal of educating and rehabilitating juvenile offenders. It was not until 1899, however, that the first juvenile court was established meant to deal just with those under the age of 18. But there was unequal treatment of juveniles, and after much ado, Congress ultimately passed legislation—the Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention Act—in the mid-1970s to try to level things out. Nowadays we often hear that many juveniles should be tried as adults. Quite often those cries are heard, and now over 10,000 prisoners under the age of 18 are serving time in adult prisons across the country. What are the justifications for and against such a move? 

Arguments Against Trying Juveniles as Adults

Opponents of such a move have several strong arguments to explain their position:

  • Parents do not have to take any responsibility: When kids commit serious crimes, parents should be held accountable to some degree, such as by being ordered to find proper counseling, care, and rehabilitation opportunities.  
  • There is no benefit: Nobody wins when children, who should be getting education and rehabilitation, are simply locked up. Furthermore, it does not meet family court’s standard of acting in the child’s best interest.
  • Criminal activity is more likely again: When juveniles are treated like adults, they are less likely to get the help they need to change their lives, and a life of crime becomes more likely.
  • Punishment options are limited: The juvenile court system can order things like curfews and counseling, but the range of options in adult court is not geared toward young offenders.
  • Suicide risk increases: Juveniles in adult prisons are usually put in solitary confinement until they are old enough to join the general population, which makes them 40 times more likely to commit suicide.
  • A jury of peers is not possible: Every jury will consist of adults, even though the defendant may be just 9 or 10 years old. 
  • Sealing records is harder: It is much more difficult to seal an adult criminal record, making it more difficult to make a fresh start.
  • Young brains are underdeveloped: Juveniles’ brains have not developed completely, meaning their decision-making abilities are inadequate. Based on neurobiology alone, it is unfair and unfitting to hold them to the same standards we hold adults.

Arguments in Favor of Trying Juveniles as Adults

Proponents of treating kids as adults in the justice system are equally passionate in their arguments:

  • It teaches accountability: Some families just do not teach accountability, and it is left to society to pick up the slack. Serious crimes deserve serious penalties.
  • Juvenile courts are too lax with serious criminals: When juveniles are given the toughest sentence possible in a juvenile court, they could be out in their neighborhoods again by the time they are 18 (or 21 or 25 in some states). About 300 people are killed by children every year. Neighborhoods and communities deserve protection from all violent predators, regardless of their age.
  • Actions should have consequences: If a serious crime is committed, the age of the offender should not matter. Society demands justice, and there is no way around it..
  • They will have access to more programs: Adult prisons offer vocational and mental health programs that are bigger and better than what the juvenile system offers, along with programming for mental health, addiction, and learning disabilities.

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No one is without fault or perfect all of the time. We all make mistakes no matter how old we are. That being said, younger people with a less mature mindset and a more relaxed understanding of consequences in life, tend to make impulsive decisions moreso than older adults. 

According to a study out of the Saint James School of Medicine in The Netherlands, the full development and maturation of the brain happens at age 25. The prefrontal cortex is critical to behavioral performance. So, until the prefrontal cortex reaches its most mature state, younger adolescents are more prone to making poor decisions when it comes to their actions.

What Crimes Do Minors Commit the Most?

Even if minors are aware that they could be in legal trouble for certain acts, that does not mean that they can fully understand the scope of the punishment they could face. If your child was arrested for a crime, it is critical that they have the best legal representation fighting to protect them from the harsh penalties that could result from a conviction. A conviction can follow your child throughout their life and affect their quality of life as well as the opportunities to which they may have access. 

David M. Boertje is a San Diego criminal defense attorney that can help you and your child throughout the entire criminal legal process and fight to get the most favorable outcome possible for your child’s case.

Children are different and what one child will try or do another may not. Still, there are some crimes that are committed more commonly than others when it comes to youth. These include:

  • Assault and battery happen when a child threatens to physically harm and/or actually causes physical harm to another party. This often is the case with bullying and school violence.
  • Underage drinking is widespread across the country. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, this issue is a huge public health concern in the United States. Each year there are an estimated 3,5000 young people who will die in incidents related to underage alcohol consumption. In 2013, over 119,000 youngsters were hospitalized for conditions related to alcohol. 
  • Like alcohol consumption, drug use and distribution are also high in the youth population.
  • Theft such as shoplifting from a store or taking something without permission from a friend’s home happens with high frequency in younger individuals.
  • Vandalism or damaging property in some way whether it is via spray paint or breaking something, are acts in which young people will often participate.

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You teach your child to avoid danger and to protect themselves when appropriate. You also teach them not to start fights or try to hurt other people. It can be quite confusing for kids. Across the country, fights and other violent acts are taking place in schools. The causes of these incidents can vary, but it is nonetheless a serious problem for all of us. 

In some situations, a person may engage in violence as a result of trying to defend themselves against physical harm by another party. If self-defense can be shown, the legal criminal implications will be much less than if the aggressive actions were intentional and unprovoked.

If your child was involved in a physical altercation in which law enforcement had to intercede, it is best to connect with an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. If you believe that your child was the victim of an attack and acted in self-defense, it will take a proficient and knowledgeable legal professional to help make the case. David M. Boertje is a San Diego criminal defense attorney who can help your family should your child find themselves facing criminal charges.

Can Minors Plead Self-Defense?

When it comes to physical violence, there is assault and then there is the battery. California’s assault and battery definitions are not the same. The two are quite different. Assault happens when a person has the ability to inflict harm and attempts to inflict harm on another person. For example, if a person tries to push another party but no harm was inflicted, it can still be considered assault.

By contrast, battery takes place when someone attempts to harm another party and succeeds. So if the damage inflicted on another party did cause injuries and harm, then the crime would no longer be assault but rather elevated to battery.

When an adult is facing an assault and/or battery charge, they will be processed in the criminal justice system. The result is likely going to be some severity of punishment in the form of prison time and potentially a costly fine. Not to mention, the blemish on the person’s record will reflect poorly on them when they try to get a job, apply for a loan, or take part in other life opportunities.

For juveniles, though, the case is likely to be adjudicated in the juvenile court system. The main difference between the criminal justice system and the juvenile court system is that the former relies on punitive actions while the latter emphasizes rehabilitation.

As long as a young person under the age of 18 did not commit an egregious act that warrants the adult criminal justice system, they can get a second chance in the juvenile system. Though, if your child is convicted of assault or battery, their school may take action such as expulsion due to zero-tolerance rules. This is why having a skilled criminal defense lawyer advocating for your child is so critically important. Continue reading

The Guardian came out with an interesting piece on the enforcement of local curfew ordinances and their effect on youth. In the city of San Diego, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 18 to be out past 10pm. The city, using its police department, runs sweeps looking for minors out past curfew in all nine districts. Sometimes the SDPD makes dozens of arrests a night.

Conceived as a crime-reduction tactic, curfews were promoted during the “tough on crime” era of the 1990s. They were motivated by the reasoning that parents should know where their minor children are. In California, the city of Monrovia was the first in the state to enact a curfew ordinance. They touted its successes and from there, curfew ordinances spread like wildfire.  These ordinances remain in place decades later.

The strictness of curfews varies by city and state. Baltimore, Maryland, for example, has one of the strictest curfews in the country, while the city of Denver, Colorado only enforces curfew during the summer while school is out. According to available FBI data, there were 2.6 million curfew arrests in the US between 1994 and 2012.

Studies by the American Civil Liberties Union have shown that curfews, while well-intended,  are racially biased and only enforced in poorer, minority-filled areas.

Legal Details of San Diego’s Curfew Ordinance

San Diego’s curfew ordinance is specifically found in San Diego Munic. Code § 58.0102. Under its regulations, a minor under the age of 18 cannot be out without being accompanied by a parent or guardian during the week. Those in violation are cited and subsequently sent to a youth diversion program. Parents can also be cited if they knowingly permit their minor child to be out in public during curfew hours. Additionally, curfew hours differ by jurisdiction. In east San Diego, curfew hours are between 10pm and 6am. In Del Mar, Solana Beach, Poway, Escondido, Chula Vista and Coronado they are from 11pm to 5am.

The statute specifies 10 legal exemptions, such as coming home from a game/school activity or job, being involved in an emergency, or running an errand at the direction of your parent. Continue reading

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