Trying teenagers as adults

Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#1
Most countries (including the PRC) have some concept of "legal infancy".This is an age before which a person is not considered sufficiently mature to make certain decisions. It is explicitly recognised that teenagers brains are not fully matured . Among other things, this means it is accepted that teens are not fully aware of the consequences of their actions.

In Australia , people under18 years may not buy alcohol, vote, gamble, ,get married (without parental approval) or enter into a legal contract. PLUS they are tried as children, in the youth court, FOR ANY OFFENCE WHATSOEVER committed before they are 18.

I've been aware for some time that at least some states in the US regularly judge teens as adults, and sentences them as adults, up to and including life without parole and the death penalty.

I've had a look at various cases as a I've had the opportunity. What I've seen suggests very strongly that was is happening is judicial revenge on especially heinous crimes, without considering why there is a concept of legal infancy in the first place. I guess one could argue that some of the US Bible belt states especially are socially pretty primitive with a strong culture of vengeance.. Whilst arguably true, I think that argument is simplistic.-I don't know how true this next bit is ,as it comes from TV programs; I have the impression that states such as NewYork and California both judge some teens as adults

I would really like some one to rationally explain this practice to me, because I truly don't understand. It seems unjust and barbaric to in principle and in practice.
 
Feb 2011
6,155
#2
I'm sure in some cases revenge would have to do with it, but on paper at least, it's not that simple.

For example, if the juvenile is a repeat offender, and shows no remorse for the crime, then he could be tried as an adult.
Or the the juvenile committed a particularly heinous crime, such as rape or muder, and is over 16 years of age, then he could be tried as an adult.
 
Likes: bedb
Sep 2014
1,140
Queens, NYC
#3
Bluntly, many of us (including me) do not buy the argument that teenagers are incapable of telling right from wrong; and are unable to understand the legal consequences of their actions. So, we hold them to a reasonable standard of behavior-do not violate others' rights.
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,578
United States
#4
Bluntly, many of us (including me) do not buy the argument that teenagers are incapable of telling right from wrong; and are unable to understand the legal consequences of their actions. So, we hold them to a reasonable standard of behavior-do not violate others' rights.
I agree.

However, I think the whole justice system needs to be reorganized around rehabilitation instead of revenge. Have programs that teach practical skills like metalworking, welding, stuff like that, and actually take measures to get rid of the whole rape problem, among other things. You know there's a problem when the people come out worse than when they went in, but the whole "tough on crime" crowd still doesn't get this.
 

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,784
Las Vegas, NV USA
#5
It goes by states in the US with separate guidelines for federal cases. In general, juvenile guidelines are much less severe than are those for adults. Age 18 is considered an adult for the purpose of sentencing. Therefore there is not much tolerance for a 17 year old getting 4 years in juvenile detention and released at age 21 when the subject has shot and killed 12 random classmates at school. If you want to say it's US gun laws that are to blame, fine. So say the subject merely raped and strangled a young girl to death after burning her with cigarettes for several hours. Some individuals just cannot be allowed to go free.
 
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Likes: bedb

stevev

Ad Honorem
Apr 2017
2,784
Las Vegas, NV USA
#7
"
"Bluntly, many of us (including me) do not buy the argument that teenagers are incapable of telling right from wrong; and are unable to understand the legal consequences of their actions. So, we hold them to a reasonable standard of behavior-do not violate others' rights."
For some it is a matter of vengeance. For me, it is a matter of public safety and empathy for the unjustified suffering of those affected by crime.
 
Likes: bedb
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#8
I tend to agree about the ability to tell right from wrong.,I don' think I said that.. As I understand it, the legal position is that people who are legal infants are considered unable to fully understand the results of of their actions


If you are going to judge teens as adults, fine, but change the law so there is a consistent principle.Make the age of majority say 16 ,or 15.or 12.?

A good argument could be made for 12 years of age; that's the age where people begin to think abstractly. Before that age they understand cause and effect, ,but not abstract concepts such as morality. A generalisation of course ,there are always going to be exceptions.. My understanding is that the law is ideally meant to serve the common good. Chance would be a fine thing.


Where do you draw the line? Is it a matter of teens are not as responsible as adults unless they do something REALLY naughty, or are already repeat offenders? That dog don't hunt. But then, somebody once said "the law an ass" IMO ,countries everywhere have legal systems, not justice systems. It often takes decades for the law to reflect the values of the community.

As part of everyday life, justice is occasionally served by the courts. This is by happy accident, not through intent.
 

Haakbus

Ad Honorem
Aug 2013
3,578
United States
#9
It should be graded, with say 12-15 having a certain degree of legal responsibility, then 15-18 or something like that.