In states all across the country, including Georgia, adolescents 17 years of age and older who commit crimes are treated as adults. Over the past 10 years, legislators and advocates attempting to lower recidivism and eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline have argued that the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles should be raised to at least 18 years old. Their arguments are largely supported by scientific studies, which demonstrate that teenagers are more likely than adults to make unreasonable and immature decisions. In response, some state governments have raised the age at which youths can be tried as adults to 18 years old and are considering other bills aimed at reforming the criminal justice system’s treatment of juveniles.
Recent Juvenile Law Reforms
The wave of reform legislation regarding juveniles has spread nationwide. In Louisiana, legislators recently passed a bill raising the age at which youths can be charged as adults to 18 years old when they are charged with misdemeanor crimes. The law also requires the state to ensure that youths detained in juvenile facilities have access to education and that their cases are periodically reviewed. In Michigan, lawmakers are attempting to pass a bill that would not only raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years old, but would reserve more funding for youth social services, which would include ensuring that adolescents in detention receive appropriate programming and are able to maintain relationships with their families.
The Massachusetts Legislature is currently considering a bill that would allow the criminal records of juveniles to be expunged. Currently, juvenile records can still be accessed by law enforcement officers, courts, and schools. If passed, the new law would permit certain individuals, including juveniles, to request that courts seal their records permanently. In order to be approved, petitioners would need to prove that they have completed the sentence and have not been convicted of any new crimes. Misdemeanor charges, on the other hand, would be automatically expunged, while a judge would be given the discretion to grant expungement of felony records.
The Governor of Kansas recently signed a law that is meant to shift the focus of the juvenile justice system from detention and punishment to treatment. Under the terms of the new law, low-level offenders will be allowed to stay at home rather than be detained in a facility. Youths would also have more access to community-based education, vocational training, and therapy programs. The law also set new standards for the length of court cases and increased the required training of juvenile justice personnel.
Contact an Experienced Juvenile Defense Attorney Today
Decades of research have proven that adolescent brains remain largely undeveloped in certain areas, meaning that teenagers are more likely to make irrational or dangerous decisions. Fortunately, the law is starting to reflect this understanding and focus more on rehabilitation than punishment. Unfortunately, Georgia has yet to reform some of its juvenile laws, so if your child was recently charged with a crime, it is important to speak with an experienced juvenile defense attorney who is well-versed in Georgia law and can help protect your child’s interests. Please contact Ford Law by calling 404-373-9881 to schedule an initial consultation with a dedicated attorney.