Whenever a child commits a violent crime, the same questions come to mind. Should a child be considered an adult if his or she commits an adult crime, such as murder? Is a child still a child, despite the severity of his or her crime? Is a child really capable of understanding the consequences of his actions? Most states allow children charged with murder to be tried as adults. The death penalty is generally not an option for any defendant under age 16, however, some states will consider it for 16- and 17-year-olds.
Children nowadays are forced to mature much sooner. Children are exposed to violence either in the media or right on their front lawn, depending on where they live. These children are also growing up in a society that thirsts for vengeance whenever falls victim to a crime, thus the growing favor of charging juvenile criminals as adults. However, no crime is yet severe enough to change the fact that a child is still a child–who has not yet reached the full level of mental capacity to distinguish right from wrong or the ramifications of his or her actions.
The argument for treating juvenile violent offenders as adults suggests that harsh sentences will act as a deterrent; that a heinous crime is a heinous crime regardless of the age of the offender and such offender should be held accountable; and that children today are in fact more sophisticated and mature at a younger age and know the implications of violence and know how to use violent weapons. The argument against punishing juvenile offenders as adults suggest that children do not have the moral or intellectual capacity to understand the consequences of their actions; children should not have easy access to deadly weapons in the first place; rehabilitation–not prison–can give a child a second chance, and; a young person released from juvenile prison is less likely to commit another crime than a young person released from an adult prison.
If your teenager has been accused of murder or some other serious crime, you want a criminal defense attorney who has experience handling cases involving juvenile violent offenders. Your attorney can advise you of your teen’s rights under the law and ensure he or she receives fair treatment.