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Juvenile crime: why a second-chance approach commonly features

| Dec 2, 2020 | Criminal Law

As a Pennsylvania parent, do you ever worry about your kids?

The answer to that is obvious, isn’t it? The unconditional love that moms and dads have for their children automatically features due concern for their well-being as they negotiate the path toward adulthood.

That road seldom offers a straight shot to maturity. Indeed, and as parents know from their own recollections of adolescence, it is customarily paved with challenges as well as opportunity. There are sometimes material moments emerging for juveniles that underscore flawed decision making linked with youth.

Put another way: Juveniles are by very definition not fully evolved in their capacity to routinely make informed and smart decisions (candidly, the same can be said for some adults, as well). Teens under the age of 18 especially can be prominently spotlighted for the choices they sometimes make that, when viewed in hindsight, were far from optimal.

In fact, youthful behavior – even conduct that is not wanton or remotely intent on promoting an unlawful aim – can easily breed trouble for a juvenile.

That is a reality manifestly on display in courts in Pennsylvania and across the country, and one duly noted by an in-depth overview highlighting juvenile crime and linked outcomes. That article stresses that, “Most children have a mischievous streak, but sometimes it goes too far and crosses the line into criminal behavior.”

A core juvenile law principle: rehabilitation, not punishment

Does it secure a legitimate social outcome or make moral sense at all to mandate a notably punitive outcome for a young person arrested for shoplifting or using a fake ID to buy alcohol?

Patently, it does not, with both community mores and bedrock criminal justice norms recognizing that most juvenile offenders hardly merit tough penal sanctions for such indiscretions. A narrow focus on punishment is seldom instructive for minors caught up in legal challenges. Harsh lock-up outcomes and attendant consequences scar rather than instruct. They often leave a lifetime of hurt and can permanently curb future possibilities.

Justice officials know that intimately. An authoritative Pennsylvania legal source addressing arrests and criminal charges in the juvenile realm states that, “Juvenile court is typically focused on rehabilitation and helping the minor get back on the right track.”

Common entrants on the juvenile crime list

Although young people can of course face many types of criminal charges, a select few offenses are especially common. They include these indiscretions:

  • Assaults and fights (e.g., at a mall, in school or at a sports event)
  • Varied theft offenses (including the above-cited shoplifting)
  • Underage alcohol-tied behavior
  • Vandalism and trespassing
  • Sex offenses (for example, sexting and allegations focused on consent)
  • Traffic infractions

It is often the case that varied sentencing alternatives geared toward rehabilitation and a second chance are available in a juvenile criminal case. A proven criminal defense attorney with a demonstrated record of advocacy on behalf of young clients can optimally pursue those avenues.