Tuesday, May 7, 2013

When Should a Juvenile be Punished as an Adult?

On April 27, 2013, a bunch of kids were playing soccer in Salt Lake City.  During the game, the referee gave the goal keeper, a 17 year old boy, a warning called a "yellow card."  This ruling by the ref upset the boy, and he punched the 41 year old referee.  The unexpected consequence of the punch was that the referee went into a coma, and a few days later, he died.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney now has the unenviable decision of whether to charge the boy as a man.  Typically, crimes committed by individuals 17 and younger are handled in the juvenile court justice system.  The focus is on reform.  Juveniles are adjudicated, not convicted.  They admit allegations, they don't plead guilty.  They go to detention, not jail or prison.  But sometimes, when a juvenile commits an adult crime, they get treated as an adult.

When I have a juvenile client who is charged with a serious crime, I do all that I can to keep their case in the juvenile justice system.  I once knew a young man who was charged with a serious crime, was tired of the juvenile system and wanted to be tried as an adult.  He thought he would get less time.  Against the advice of his attorney, he had his case moved to the adult court.  He ended up being sent to prison as a teenager.  When I saw the result of his case, I felt it was a foolish tragedy.  Except in the most unusual cases, children should not be treated the same as adults.

If you have a child with juvenile charges, call for a free initial consultation.

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