Is justice served when a child is found guilty in adult court and is sentenced to more prison time than he or she has even been alive? Children are not the same as adults, and adolescent development research strongly suggests distinct differences in behavioral tendencies, such as increased risk-taking, which may lead to criminal behavior; but children also have the ability to change. With this in mind, the court system is starting to question whether there is another approach so that children who are felons can have the opportunity to make changes that allow them to go on to lead a productive life.
When a child is convicted of a crime, the consequences can ruin his or her life forever. The experienced and seasoned Illinois criminal law attorneys at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. understand the seriousness of the situation and offer aggressive representation for children facing criminal charges. We have been successful helping other juveniles and will do everything possible to defend their rights and enable their rehabilitation.
We offer a free initial consultation for those accused of any criminal charges. Get help today by calling 630-305-0222.
What is Paul’s Law, and How Can it Help Juvenile Offenders?
Paul’s Law, which passed in 2013 in Indiana, addresses the issue of juvenile justice reform. Paul Gingerich was 12 years old when he was an accomplice in the murder of his friend’s stepfather outside of Fort Wayne, Indiana. Paul’s Law was passed with the idea that there are impressionable years during childhood, and that juveniles deserve therapy, educational opportunities, and a second chance at a good life. The law gives judges the opportunity to review progress made by young offenders and to revise sentences. Gingerich, who is now 18, is will face a few years of electronic monitoring and 10 years of probation, and if he demonstrates improved behavior, he will get to spend his adult life in the world.
The Incarcerated Children’s Advocacy Network (ICAN) has nearly 50 men and women under observation who were successfully reformed after being incarcerated for murder as children. ICAN views legislation like Paul’s Law to be a light of hope for a broader effort to take action against a flawed criminal justice system. Other jurisdictions are also experimenting with different approaches to the treatment of children in criminal court, such as a Connecticut proposal to raise the cut-off age for juvenile court to 21.
Cook County, Illinois, was the first jurisdiction in United States history to separate out the juvenile justice system from the adult criminal justice system. State law requires that the juvenile system take an approach known as “BARJ” – balanced and restorative justice. This enables the Illinois juvenile justice system to focus on rehabilitating youthful offenders so that they do not turn into habitual adult offenders.
The attorneys at Wolfe Stec, Ltd., support the goals of the Illinois juvenile justice system to make changes and focus on rehabilitation. Right now, the adult criminal age in Illinois is 17. Juveniles as young as 15 may be transferred to adult criminal court if they commit serious felonies. Offenders as young as 13 may be tried as adults if murder is committed in an aggravated sexual assault; and in extreme situations, life sentences for teens are also possible in Illinois. In general, whether the child can be charged as a juvenile or an adult is dependent on the crime and the culpability demonstrated by the offender.
Unfortunately, according to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Center for Sex Offender Management, Illinois is one of 20 states that still puts juveniles on sex offender registries, regardless of the risk of reoffending. This is despite the fact that it has been determined that requiring juveniles to register as sex offenders can hinder rehabilitation efforts and have significant, long-term negative consequences for young perpetrators who are statistically unlikely to re-offend.
A study released by the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission recommended that the state end its “counterproductive” practice of requiring juvenile offenders to add their names to sex offender registries. Juvenile justice advocates have argued that requiring minors to register as sex offenders is a “virtual life sentence” for crimes committed in their youth — crimes that are not only for serious offenses like rape, but also include minor ones like consensual sex, public nudity and public urination.
Larceny, Shoplifting, and Burglary
The most common offenses committed by juveniles are theft offenses like shoplifting, burglary and grand theft. For these offenses, juveniles under 18 who are not charged as adults will go through the juvenile court system. This is aimed at rehabilitation rather than incarceration and considers the offender as delinquent rather than a criminal. This attitude takes into consideration that minors might often lack the maturity to make fully informed decisions.
Contact Us to Defend Young People Facing Criminal Charges in Illinois
Even with changing attitudes toward juvenile rehabilitation, your child’s future can still be harmed by a juvenile offense. If you have a young family member charged with a crime, you should take immediate action to give the child a chance to learn, change, rehabilitate, and have a decent future.
The criminal defense lawyers at Wolfe & Stec, Ltd. are skilled trial lawyers who believe each juvenile case is unique with its own set of circumstances. We know the courts and the juvenile justice system, and how to plea bargain, negotiate guidelines and recognize when to take a case to trial.
When we take on a juvenile case, we gather information quickly and look at all viable defense options to make a decision about the best legal strategy. If we cannot get the charges dropped, we will work to minimize the negative impact of a youthful mistake, seeking alternative sentence programs such as good behavior programs, drug and traffic school, jail tours, and dismissible or intense probation. We make sure that your case is not moved into adult court whenever possible and seek to protect juvenile offenders from harsh sentencing.
Don’t delay — contact us for a free consultation at 630-305-0222. Our Illinois juvenile crimes lawyers represent clients in DuPage County, Naperville, Aurora, Wheaton, Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, Illinois.