Addressing Teens Who Commit Serious Crimes
Crime and punishment have pushed society for remedies for as long as we can remember. We have a criminal justice system, but often struggle with the meaning of the word justice. The concept becomes even more difficult when juvenile offenders are involved. Unfortunately, it’s a quandary that seems to be growing in scope. Juvenile arrests are on the rise in the Sunshine State, and many of the crimes involved are serious ones. For example:
- An 11-year-old was charged with shooting two other teenagers in Apopka after a scuffle during football practice;
- Two youth, aged 17 and 12, were arrested in connection with the murder of three other teens over the course of less than a week.
- Five 16-year-olds and two 18-year-olds were arrested and charged with a series of serious crimes including thefts, assaults, and carjackings in Miami-Dade County.
- One person was killed and another seriously wounded by a 14-year-old in Riverview.
How do Teens get Involved in Serious Criminal Activity?
Without question, the evil of these cases and others like it is head-spinning. It leads us, as a society, to ask how we should address children who engage in these and similar crimes. Some sociologists advocate beginning by trying to understand who these teens are, and the complicated environments from which they come.
One recent study concluded that young offenders frequently grow up in homes that are in what they classify as disordered neighborhoods. Children from these areas often have access to guns and other weapons, and generally have substantial exposure to violence during their formative years and beyond. It’s not uncommon for their unstable home lives to lead these young people to behave in irresponsible and risky ways as they react to various life challenges, because they are unable to process events and the logical consequences of their actions. Countering the myth of the “super predator teen,” researchers believe that for the most part, reckless, morality-deplete teens are created by violent family and neighborhood norms that guide them through life.
The fact that the human brain does not fully develop until roughly age 25, combined with community-based violence, is thought to contribute to some of the most horrendous criminal activity we see involving juveniles. Research relating to brain development has shed much understanding on juvenile crimes, and was, in fact, cited by the Supreme Court when it eliminated the death penalty for juveniles back in 2005. This research is also why a sentence of life without parole is handed down to juvenile offenders only rarely.
Consideration of the Teen Brain and Teen Prosecution
Studies substantiate what is very obvious to the casual onlooker: teens crave admiration from their peers, and engage in careless, often dangerous activities in their pursuit of status in their peer groups. This, combined with a shaky history and the inability to compute risk and reward, leads juveniles ready to make the kinds of mistakes that land them in the criminal justice system. These facts make it imperative that the expectations for teen criminals are carefully weighed when facing a justice system and courtrooms built with adults in mind. That is not to minimize the suffering of victims; it is just an acknowledgement of the science behind teen behavior.
Defending Teen Suspects
The experienced Miami juvenile defense attorneys at The Law Office of Julia Kefalinos are prepared to launch a vigorous defense for juveniles who face penalties in the adult criminal justice system. For a confidential consultation, schedule an appointment in our office today.