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Why Are Juveniles Held to a Different Standard of Accountability Under the Law?

Joliet Juvenile LawyerFor several decades now, the golden question regarding juvenile crimes has been why we try juveniles and adults differently for similar crimes. More specifically, many wonder why those as old as seventeen years of age (nearly adults) are still considered “youth” in a court of law, instead of adult offenders.

Experts have studied the psychological factors behind such an approach extensively over the years and have discovered a number of reasons why juveniles—including nearly adult seventeen-year-olds—are different from adults in the world of criminal law. Uncovering these findings has helped us to understand, then, why the U.S. Supreme Court treats juveniles differently, holding them to an entirely separate standard of accountability than adults.

Brain Development and its Effect on Teen Behavior

Anyone who is a parent to a teenager or is otherwise close to a teenager is familiar with how difficult adolescent behavior can be. Teens are often impulsive and argumentative, especially as they reach the later teen years. This is essentially the source behind the youth offender’s differential treatment in the law system. A teen’s brain differs significantly from an adult's brain due to development, causing teens to make all kinds of irrational, impulsive, and, at times, downright destructive choices. Quite simply, the difference in brain development affects a teen’s behavior, which distinctly separates them from adults under criminal law.

The Illinois Department of Human Services has reported the following physical and behavioral science findings regarding this issue:

• Youth often engage in risky criminal conduct due to the fact that they make decisions differently than adults. In particular, they have been found less able to engage in moral reasoning;
• Youth are capable of significant positive growth and change. In fact, many young offenders can and typically do stop offending, even up to age seventeen, as they tend to “grow out” of the poor behavior; and
• Youth, including seventeen-year-olds, are prone to riskier behavior than adults. They have been found to be less capable of controlling their impulses, have a harder time regulating emotions, and are less able to consider the long-term consequences for their actions. Additionally, they are also more easily influenced by peer pressure than adults and are more susceptible to stress-induced pressure.

Researchers emphasize that as teens move through late adolescence, their brain development allows them to better integrate memory and experience into their decisions. Additionally, the frontal areas of their brain develop greater speed and richer connections. This assists them in being able to consider more variables and possible agendas when making a decision.

Contact an Attorney

Juvenile offense, although treated differently than adult criminal charges, can still be devastating for a teen’s record, future, and their emotional wellbeing. If your teen is facing consequences for a juvenile crime, it is time to speak with an experienced Joliet criminal defense attorney who is knowledgeable in representing juveniles in a court of law. Call the Law Office of Jack L. Zaremba today for a free consultation.

Illinois Criminal Law Reform Aims to Reduce Recidivism Rates

Joliet LawyerEarlier this year, Governor Bruce Rauner announced a lofty goal: he wants to reduce the state’s prison population by 25 percent by the year 2025. Several initiatives and criminal law reform laws have been put into place since that announcement, and all are aimed at achieving that goal. Is it really working, though, or do they at least have the potential of doing so? The following explores the recent reforms, and their potential efficacy. It also provides some important information for anyone currently facing criminal charges in the state of Illinois.

Diversion Programs and Nonviolent Crimes

Over the last several decades, the “War on Drugs” created a major surge in the number of people arrested for nonviolent crimes, and it continues to result in countless arrests. Worse yet is that many wind up being arrested, charged, and convicted of subsequent crimes. This is often because the true nature of their issue is never really addressed (i.e. addiction, etc.).

To reduce this risk of recidivism (re-offending), the state has implemented several diversion programs. One example is the use of a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program for someone being charged with possession of a drug or driving under the influence. Thought not appropriate for everyone or every situation, these programs can improve outcomes for some. An attorney can help you determine if this option is right for you.

Record Sealing Reform Can Improve Employment Options

One of the biggest struggles that convicted offenders face is the reentry back into society. Many of struggle to find gainful employment and suitable housing. This can greatly increase their risk of recidivism. In fact, one study showed that almost half of all of Illinois’ ex-offenders return to prison within three years of their release. Yet only 18 percent of offenders able to find gainful employment end up incarcerated again during that same time frame.

Several initiatives to help improve employability have been implemented, including the ID bill , which gives offenders a way to obtain a state-issued ID, and the record sealing reform bill. A criminal defense lawyer can help you determine if any of these options might be available to you.

Contact an Experienced Illinois Criminal Defense Lawyers

If you or someone you love is facing a criminal charge, contact a skilled Will County criminal defense attorney for assistance. We will protect your rights every step of the way. Dedicated and experienced, we will pursue the most favorable outcome possible. We offer free, personalized consultations to address your legal needs and concerns. Call 815-740-4025 and schedule yours today.

Subsequent Drug Charges Are a Serious Matter in Illinois

Joliet Repeat Drug ChargesA Davenport man with two former drug convictions on his record is now facing a new criminal drug charge . Because he has had two convictions in the past, and because he was on probation at the time of his most recent arrest, he is likely to face even higher penalties if convicted. Unfortunately, it is a situation that anyone with a criminal record could find themselves in, even if they have done little or nothing to deserve further prosecution.

A Criminal Record Can Hurt You in Future Arrests

Research shows that more than 2,000 people have been wrongfully arrested and convicted over the last 23 years. But this estimate, which is likely on the conservative side, only includes those who were exonerated of their crimes. There are still others sitting in prison for a crime they never committed. Unless and until their cases are successfully appealed, their information may not ever make it to a national database.

Unfortunately, it is often those with a criminal record that find themselves facing wrongful charges. Some are victims of criminal profiling, which pushes law enforcement to look more closely at known criminals. Others are arrested for relatively minor reasons and then officers work to find any evidence they can to use charge the detainee with an additional crime. Still others are victimized by society upon their release. Neighbors, employers, or even family members may report them for a crime simply because they have a criminal past.

This very same stigma can do more than just get you arrested on charges of a crime you did not commit; it can also get you convicted. Judges examine your criminal record when making a determination in your case. Juries may hear of your sordid past. Even if you have turned things around for yourself, worked to become a contributing member of society, or were even wrongfully convicted before, your past may haunt you and can impact your future.

Aggressive Legal Defense for Your Criminal Charges

Regardless of whether you are facing your first criminal charge or your fifth, it is critical that you treat the matter seriously and seek immediate legal assistance. As a former prosecutor, Attorney Jack L. Zaremba will fight to protect your rights every step of the way. Our team is prepared to provide you with personalized, assertive representation against drug charges, as well as other criminal charges. Contact an experienced Will County criminal defense attorney to discuss your options. Call us at 815-470-4025 to schedule your free initial consultation today.

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