The most horrible circumstance is happening to your family. Your child has been accused of a crime. In fact, you probably wish it was happening to you instead. Your home right now is undoubtedly in emotional turmoil – in most situations of this kind fear and worry for your child is mixed with an almost equal dosage of disappointment and anger. You don’t want them to start their adult life serving time or even having a criminal record.
Historically, Washington State has realized that the decision making of juveniles is not fully developed. So, the juvenile justice system has focused on rehabilitation and helping them to learn to lead lives as productive adults. This has led to treatment and service programs – sometimes even within the school or social service departments. However, in recent years, the focus seems to have shifted to punishment. Many prosecuting attorneys try to have the child tried as an adult, especially if they are charged with a violent crime. This process is called declination. They ask the juvenile court to decline their jurisdiction.
There are also some violent crimes that immediately get anyone over 16 tried as an adult. In this circumstance, you would want a defense attorney who could argue for a lesser charge.
If they’re tried as an adult, the penalties are much more severe and it makes it more difficult to clear their record. You want your child to stay in the juvenile system. After all, they are a juvenile. The defense team at Smith & White, PLLC, works to make sure that a juvenile is tried in the juvenile system where they belong. They will contend with the state to keep it in juvenile jurisdiction. Once that is taken care of, they can immediately start on the defense of the specific crime charged. If the state does choose to try them as an adult, then it’s even more important that you have a skilled and passionate defense team to advocate for your child.
You may be thinking, “Hey if my kid did the crime they should do the time!” There is nothing wrong with this attitude. You expect your family to be held to the same level of justice as anyone else. However the juvenile system does not do away with justice. It simply leaves it at an age appropriate level and keeps juvenile offenders with others of like age.
You may be thinking, “If they’re tried as an adult, and it’s proven they did it, they’re more likely to get a stiffer sentence and it’s more likely they won’t do anything like this again.” This is very nearly the argument that is used by those prosecutors who argue for juveniles to be tried and sentenced as adults. It is also frequently argued that it will stop other juveniles from doing the same actions as they will be too scared of the harsher sentences. This may all seem to make logical sense and these are worthy motives. However it has been shown in study after study that the reality doesn’t match up.
First there is the belief that they will receive harsher and longer sentences. Technically this is true – they do generally receive longer sentences than they would if they were tried in the juvenile system. However, all of us know about good behavior and other ways that convicts have of cutting their sentence short. Some of these are available in the juvenile system but not all. The idea of the juvenile system is to let the offender grow up and see whether maturation will make a difference in their decision making about criminal behavior. In the adult system there is no such goal. So they have all the means available to shorten their sentence for themselves. In various studies it has been shown that on average the juvenile offender who is tried as an adult may get a longer sentence but will actually spend less time serving it.
It has also been shown that a majority of teenagers try some illegal activity. Usually it’s very minor but it is there. It is widely believed that this is due to the under development of their brains and lack of being able to see or consider consequences. These facts of their development don’t change just because the law does. So it has been shown that the threat of harsher sentences does nothing to curb juvenile crime.
Plus we all know the studies of prisoners hardening and potentially getting potentially even worse in prison. This goes double for the young mind. They don’t get scared straight – they get worse and it has actually been shown that they are more likely to repeat criminal behavior if they are tried as an adult.
These are scenarios that you, of course, do not want for your child. You need to get a Seattle Tacoma defense attorney that can work on lessening their charges and getting them tried as the juvenile that they are. We will care about you and your child and get you your best result possible. Please call the law office of Smith & White, PLLC – the first consult is free.