A proposed court ruling that would make it state law for minors 17 and under to be charged as minors even in felony cases has been proposed, according to a recent report. Illinois state law currently deals with juvenile crime somewhat more seriously, charging 17-year-old offenders as adults in the case of felony crimes. However, many individuals see this law as unfair and are working to change it.
Activists in favor of the change argue that 17-year-old offenders are still effectively children, especially in the eyes of the laws that keep them from voting or signing up for credit cards before the age of 18. They maintain that youths of that age lack the ability to make sound decisions and therefore should not be penalized with a permanent criminal record for making an unwise choice before the age of majority. Some officials argue that a 17-year-old is more capable of change and growth than an adult criminal, and the Juvenile Court is set up to promote such growth in young offenders.
The new law has been in discussion since 2010, when misdemeanor offenders were granted juvenile status by the Illinois General Assembly. Since then, juvenile crime has dropped according to some statistics, suggesting that juvenile detention for minors is more effective than adult conviction. This is not to say that juvenile offenders who commit serious crimes like robbery or murder would be let off: the sections of law related to serious crimes would not change and those offenders could still be tried as adults.
In addition, some proponents note that juvenile detention in Illinois is hardly a laughing matter: those charged with juvenile crime are held to stricter probation standards than many adults. Juvenile crime law is often a delicate subject considering the vulnerable nature of the demographic it is meant to police. Any parent whose child is facing charges may benefit from staying up-to-date on these sorts of changes to existing law, which may mean the difference between a childish mistake and a permanent record black mark.
Source: Chicago Sun-Times, “Editorial: Raise age for charging youths as adults,” March 24, 2013