The mission of the U.S. judicial system is to faithfully enforce the law and protect its citizens. Since the 1800s, the U.S. has had two separate judicial systems: one for adults and one for juveniles. Back then, people under the age of eighteen who allegedly committed a crime received more leniency in juvenile court. Over the passing generations, however, society has called for tougher sentencing, even for the once protected class of youth.
In Ohio, trying and sentencing someone as young as fourteen as an adult is legal. It’s the job of criminal defense lawyers to ensure that a fair trial occurs.
Why we have two justice systems
- To serve the best interests of the child. In the U.S., the best interests of the child are the focus of nearly every child custody case, however, we toss aside the best interests of a child if they’re alleged to have committed a crime.
- Adolescent development. It’s been long known that the pre-frontal cortex of the brain, the area responsible for rational decisions making, is not fully developed until the mid-20s. As Laurence Steinberg, a specialist in child and adolescent psychological development said, “The teenage brain is like a car with a good accelerator but a weak break. With powerful impulses under poor control, the likely result is a crash.”
- Chance for rehabilitation. One of the aims of the juvenile justice system is to give the adolescent a chance to start over with a detailed plan for success. Often, community based rehabilitation reduces the likelihood of repeat offences.
- Safety. Youths imprisoned with adults suffer an increased risk of sexual abuse, injury and death.
With nearly every state in the U.S. legally capable of transferring youth to the adult judicial system, it’s important to be vigilant. Secure defense who knows the law and will fight for the future of every adolescent in jeopardy.