Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has signed a bill which will allow young people who have been charged with a crime to stay under the juvenile court system until they are 19 years of age. Prior to the signing of this bill, if someone turned 18 years of age while under the juvenile court system, the courts would lose jurisdiction over that young person.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office has spoken out in favor of this change, as have many public defenders. The change allows the office to supervise juveniles in court for longer, and means that those who are close to turning 18 years of age still have options under the juvenile system. Prior to the change, youths would often end up being prosecuted as adults, because while they were a juvenile when the crime that they are accused of was committed, there was not enough time to complete the case under the juvenile system. This meant that young people were at risk of ending up with a criminal record, making it hard for them to get a scholarship or a job. Being prosecuted under the adult system at a young age can have a lasting impact on a young person’s life, and robs them of the second chances that they could have had if they were prosecuted as a juvenile.
It is expected that the extension to the jurisdiction of the juvenile court could mean that hundreds of additional cases are seen under the juvenile system every year. Beth Rosenberg, a representative of the Children’s Action Alliance says that the change offers the opportunity for kids charged with crimes, under the age of 18, to get considered under the juvenile court system, as kids should be. She says that those young people need to be treated as kids, because at such a young age that is what they are.
If you have a child who has been accused of a crime in Arizona, then it is important that you and they speak to a juvenile lawyer to ensure that they get the representation that they need for their case to be considered fairly. The legal system is set up to take into consideration the limited judgment and understanding that children have, and to give them the opportunity to have a clean start as an adult and to grow into a responsible citizen. Children often make mistakes through peer pressure or if they fall into the wrong crowd. This should not be something that should impact them for decades after the fact.
With the right support from a juvenile lawyer, a young person will have the opportunity to make right what they have done, and to get back onto a more positive path. They deserve the opportunity to go back to school or to find employment, and to have their transgressions forgotten. Crimes committed as an adult are far more serious, and young people should understand the severity of what they do, and how reaching an age of maturity means their choices matter.