The beginning of a new year marks different things for different people. Undoubtedly, thousands of people in Illinois and throughout the world are on day three of what they hope will be the diet regimen that will finally do the weight-loss trick.

Besides the often-failed New Year’s resolutions that are in early motion since Jan. 1, something a bit more certain and serious is officially in motion in the state. Juvenile offenses in Illinois are to be approached in a manner that is meant to protect young defendants from what adult convictions can do to their futures.

Lawmakers passed a proposal last year that means big change for juveniles facing felony charges in Illinois. The law is specific to protect 17-year-olds who, in the past, would have their felony cases tried in adult courts. Now, as long as the youth’s charge isn’t murder or sexual assault, a 17-year-old will be tried as what he or she is in the eyes of the law: a child.

The juvenile system isn’t meant to let kids get away with offenses of which they are accused. Instead, at its core it acknowledges that teenagers are not the same as adults in regards to decision-making and development. What might be a reasonable punishment following a criminal conviction for an adult could be considered cruel and unusual for a teen.

Controversy still exists following the enactment of the new juvenile crime law in Illinois. What is left to iron out is whether the law will apply to 17-year-olds who were charged with felonies before the new year began.

When there is a development in this legal matter and news of outside cases impacted by it, we will post an update.

Source: DNAinfo, “17-Year-Olds Accused of Felonies to be Treated as Juveniles,” Erin Meyer, Dec. 31, 2013