While the 80s and 90s saw those involved in law enforcement being tough on juvenile offenders, the reverse has happened in the last decade. Instead of being tried as an adult, more juveniles in Illinois in the past decade have been tried in juvenile court, which could help them later in life.
Raising the age of responsibility
Many areas of the United States have raised the age of intent for criminal defense to age 18. Rehabilitation differs, in many respects, between the adult and juvenile levels. In 2010, Illinois raised the general age of adulthood for criminal offenses to 18, but only for misdemeanor offenses. That means those charged with more serious offenses will be tried as juveniles in the state.
Research has shown that teens’ brains have not yet fully developed regarding decision-making. Other studies show that locking up teens in adult detention centers, even when they have committed serious crimes, can be physically and psychologically harmful while also putting them at risk for committing additional crimes. Instead of putting juvenile offenders in adult institutions, they benefit more from community-based intervention efforts. Fewer juveniles have been charged with crimes over the past ten years, corresponding to a general decrease in crime across the United States.
Helping juvenile offenders achieve the best possible outcome
With research showing that even juveniles accused of violent felony offenses are better off in a rehabilitative environment that meets their unique need, an aggressive defense that keeps them out of the adult system is even more critical. Instead of being exposed to hardened criminals, juvenile offenders, even those charged with multiple offenses, can benefit from a more understanding of the rehabilitative process instead of the cycle of arrest, release, and repeat.
Keeping your child’s case in juvenile court has other advantages, too. When a case stays in the juvenile system, it has the potential to qualify for expungement from legal records. Having an offense sealed when the young offender remains out of trouble means that a bad decision won’t follow them around and have adverse consequences for the rest of their adult lives.