Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Juvenile Crime

Found this article on yahoo today.

What I can gather from the facts is that two teens, a fifteen year old and a sixteen year old, walked up to a 73 year old man, each brandishing a black gun, knocked him to the ground, punched him in his face, and stole his money (which happened to be seven cents). The fifteen year old confessed to the crime, but said they were BB guns.

Quick thoughts on my first read:

1) The headline is "Teen gets branded a felon for life . . ." The headline would be more appropriate as "Teen's actions brand him a felon for life." Let's not blame the jury and judge for the defendant's actions.

2) What's the difference between seven cents and seventy dollars in a robbery? Robbery is a crime of theft no matter the amount. It is based on the force used. In this case, two guns, punches, and kicks. Should the defendant get a lighter sentence because he chose his victim poorly?

3) The defendant claims they were BB guns in his statement. Much like the amount of money taken, I doubt it mattered to the victim at the time.

In case you were wondering, this was not my case. Not even my county.

I prosecute felony crimes and specialize in juvenile offenders, which is why the article caught my attention. JO's are thirteen, fourteen, and fifteen year olds charged with certain murders, robberies, burglaries, and rapes, among others. These defendants would normally be prosecuted in family court in sealed delinquency proceedings, but these charges are considered so serious that these defendants are charged and tried in superior court just like adults. Anyone sixteen and up in New York is treated like an adult when they commit a crime.

The sentencing range for JO's is significantly lessened when they are in superior court. If the defendant in this article was sixteen, he would have faced up to 25 years in prison. Since he was fifteen, he faced a maximum of 10 years and the judge sentenced him to serve a minimum of two years in jail. This seems fair for what the defendant did.

What do you think? Should there be any exceptions for juveniles or should they all be handled in family court? What is an appropriate age to determine someone is an adult when they commit a crime?


  1. Interesting that you chose this article as this event DID occur in MY County. I am not a fan of the title "for robbing a man of 7 cents" because like you said, should he get a lighter sentence because he chose his victim poorly? No! The amount he stole should be irrelevant and the focus should be on the violence of the robbery. I definitely think juveniles should be treated less harshly than adults as their brains are obviously less mature (worded poorly but I know there is science behind this) and I really do believe a one-time punishment of 2 years or so in jail could really teach kids a lesson and deter them from committing future criminal acts. There are obviously plenty of exceptions but I'm especially opposed to harsh punishments inflicted upon juveniles.

  2. There are numerous studies that show brains (especially men's) don't fully develop until a person is in their early twenties. It is difficult to balance a young person's future against the crime committed and even more difficult to decide at what age a person should be treated as an adult. I don't think a blanket rule can cover it. They must be reviewed on a case by case basis.