Juvenile Crime: Don’t Let One Mistake Damage the Life of Your Child

According to the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP), delinquency case rates generally increase with the age of the juvenile. In 2008, U.S. law enforcement agencies arrested approximately 2.11 million youths under the age of 18. Unfortunately, the issue of juvenile delinquency is becoming more complicated and many crime prevention programs either don’t exist or are unequipped to deal with the problem. In addition, as more and more concerns are raised about youth violence, a greater number of adolescent offenders are being handled in the adult criminal justice system. If your child has been charged with a juvenile crime, your first step should be to contact a qualified juvenile defense attorney to ensure your child’s rights are protected.

Juveniles vs. Adult Offenders

The United States does not have a universal juvenile justice system; the laws differentiating between juvenile and adult offenders differ state-by-state. The main difference between the treatment of juvenile and adult offenders is that the juvenile court system focuses primarily on treatment and rehabilitation, while adult criminal courts are predicated on punishment. However, in more serious cases, a juvenile may be transferred to adult criminal court and tried as an adult, depending on the age of the offender, offending history, and the severity of the offense. Although many states indicate a minimum age for transfer averaging between ten and fifteen years old, nearly half of U.S. states do not specify a minimum age. In some states, there are statutory exclusion laws in place which dictate specific offenses for which prosecution as an adult is mandatory. Furthermore, as of January 2010, two U.S. states prosecute all 16- and 17-year-old juvenile offenders as adults.

Juvenile Delinquent Offenders

There are a number of circumstances dictating whether a youthful offender will be tried in juvenile court or adult criminal court, many of which vary depending on the state. If the prosecution charges an older juvenile with a particularly serious or violent offense, the prosecuting attorney may request that the juvenile be tried as an adult. An offender aged fifteen, sixteen or seventeen, for example, may be tried as an adult if they are charged with a violent crime like assault, arson or rape. Other examples of crimes which may lead juveniles to be tried in adult criminal court include:

  • Violent Crimes
  • Robbery
  • Homicide
  • Weapon’s possession
  • Larceny/Theft
  • Vandalism
  • Auto theft
  • Burglary
  • Drug and Alcohol Violations
  • Drug possession
  • Liquor law violations
  • Drunk and disorderly conduct
  • Drug abuse
  • Intent to sell drugs

Juvenile Status Offenders

There are also certain offenses which apply only to juveniles and not to adults, called status offenses. In other words, these acts may be considered illegal when performed by individuals under a certain age, while remaining legal for others. Common status offenses include truancy, running away, curfew violations, incorrigibility, and underage alcohol consumption. Juvenile status offenders are distinguished from juvenile delinquent offenders in that the former offenders have not committed an act that would be considered a crime if it were committed by an adult, while the latter have.

Legal Help for Juvenile Offenders

When a minor commits a crime, they are often tried and sentenced by a court system separate from that which tries adult offenders. There are also separate institutions designated for juvenile offenders, called juvenile detention centers. After a juvenile commits a crime, it is up to the juvenile court to determine the degree of risk the juvenile poses to society, as well as the benefits incurred by incarceration in a juvenile detention center. Even though juveniles are typically treated differently than adults when charged with a crime, they still have the same rights. If your child has been charged with a juvenile crime, it is critical that you ensure your child’s rights are protected. Don’t let one mistake negatively affect the rest of your child’s life; contact an experienced juvenile defense lawyer today.

Criminal Law Information

According to criminal law, crimes are offences against the social order. In common law jurisdictions, there is a legal fiction that crimes disturb the peace of the sovereign. Government officials, as agents of the sovereign, are responsible for the prosecution of offenders. Hence, the criminal law “plaintiff” is the sovereign, which in practical terms translates into the monarch or the people.

The major objective of criminal law is deterrence and punishment, while that of civil law is individual compensation. Criminal offences consist of two distinct elements; the physical act (the actus reus, guilty act) and the requisite mental state with which the act is done (the mens rea, guilty mind). For example, in murder the ‘actus reus is the unlawful killing of a person, while the ‘mens rea is malice aforethought (the intention to kill or cause grievous injury). The criminal law also details the defenses that defendants may bring to lessen or negate their liability (criminal responsibility) and specifies the punishment which may be inflicted. Criminal law neither requires a victim, nor a victim’s consent, to prosecute an offender. Furthermore, a criminal prosecution can occur over the objections of the victim and the consent of the victim is not a defense in most crimes.

Criminal law in most jurisdictions both in the common and civil law traditions is divided into two fields:

* Criminal procedure regulates the process for addressing violations of criminal law

* Substantive criminal law details the definition of, and punishments for, various crimes.

Criminal law distinguishes crimes from civil wrongs such as tort or breach of contract. Criminal law has been seen as a system of regulating the behavior of individuals and groups in relation to societal norms at large whereas civil law is aimed primarily at the relationship between private individuals and their rights and obligations under the law. Although many ancient legal systems did not clearly define a distinction between criminal and civil law, in England there was little difference until the codification of criminal law occurred in the late nineteenth century. In most U.S. law schools, the basic course in criminal law is based upon the English common criminal law of 1750 (with some minor American modifications like the clarification of mens rea in the Model Penal Code).

Types of criminal law are: Arrests and Searches, Drug Crimes, Juvenile Law, Drunk Driving / DUI / DWI , Parole, Probation, Pardons, Violent Crimes, White Collar Crimes and Military Law.

Three Strikes Laws

Legislatures and law enforcement agencies are always looking for ways to reduce the number of individuals who commit crimes. Because of this goal, a chief objective of many of the punishments for crimes is deterrence. One way in which agencies and state and the federal legislatures have attempted to decrease the number of crimes being committed is by implementing “three strikes” laws. Just like in baseball, three strikes and you’re out.

The basic premise behind the three strikes laws in existence now is that recidivism should be punished. A person should be punished more severely for subsequent crimes since he or she clearly didn’t learn not to commit crimes the first time. This principle can be seen in various drunk driving conviction rules as well as in the three strikes laws. Here, a person is given two convictions with “ordinary” terms of incarceration and then, with the third crime, a person is sent away for life. Fortunately, not just any crime warrants application to the three strikes law. Generally only serious criminal offenses, like felonies, are considered eligible.

This type of law initially became popular during the early 1990s when California became the first state to enact a provision like this. Since 1994, 23 other states have followed California’s trend and enacted their own similar statutes. The statutes enacted by roughly half of the states in the country require a state court to hand down a mandatory and extended period of incarceration (like life in prison) for those who have been convicted of serious criminal offenses on three or more separate occasions. 
While the states have enacted these bits of legislation with the best intentions, they have been met with some hostility from other states saying that the statutes don’t work. Some argue that there is virtually no difference between the crime rates of states with statutes and those without. This is untrue, at least for the example below.  

In 1993, the year before it enacted its statute, California recorded 336,381 separate incidents of violent crimes. In 2000, the number of violent crimes had dropped to 210,531 separate incidents for a 37% or so reduction in the number reported. Minnesota, a state without a three strikes statute in place as of 2000, had 183,347 violent crimes reported in 1993. In 2000, Minnesota reported 157,798 violent crimes which results in a reduction in crime of 13%. Obviously, California’s reduction was greater than Minnesota’s by twenty four percentage points.

Memphis Permanent Residents: What You Need To Know If Charged With a Crime

The greater Memphis, Tennessee area is home to over 1 million people, many of whom are immmigrants from other countries. There is quite a bit of legal activity in Memphis with regard to immigrants, because of the federal immigration court in downtown Memphis. It is the only immigration court in Tennessee, and also serves residents of Mississippi and Arkansas. If you’re a legal immigrant in Memphis, Tennessee and have been charged with a criminal offense, you’re facing a situation that could severely affect not only your residence in the United States, but your entire future and the future of those close to you. You should immediately consult with a Memphis criminal defense lawyer to discuss your case and what options you have for keeping the charge from becoming a conviction.

Criminal cases in Memphis are heard in the Shelby County Criminal Court building, located at 201 Poplar Ave., Memphis, TN, 38103. Other Memphis-area jurisdictions such as Bartlett, Collierville, and Germantown have their own court locations. If you are summoned to appear at the Memphis Immigration Court, you will go to the Clifford Davis Federal Building, also downtown, located at 167 N. Main St. in Memphis.

Under United States immigration laws, committing or admitting to a crime involving moral turpitude can be grounds for deportation or denial of entry. Unfortunately, there is no set definition for “crime involving moral turpitude” in the immigration courts. In fact, the phrase has been somewhat of a mystery to judges, attorneys, and immigrants.

Crimes whose elements contain fraud, larceny, or an intent to harm other people have commonly been found to be crimes of moral turpitude. Violent crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, child abuse, and assault would apply, as well as offenses such as theft, vandalism, burglary, blackmail, and forgery. Additionally, crimes against the government such as counterfeiting, bribery and perjury will trigger the moral turpitude penalties. Drug possession charges may also trigger deportation or a denial of citizenship.

A Memphis permanent resident card holder does not even have to commit one of these crimes. If he or she simply attempts or conspires to commit these offenses, or is an accessory, that also would count as commission of a crime involving moral turpitude.

Another category of offenses–aggravated felonies–are extremely serious and can lead to certain deportation. Aggravated felonies, like crimes involving moral turpitude, have no set definition and seem to vary from case to case. Even crimes that would not defined as felonies under the law of the state in which they were committed can be considered aggravated felonies in the world of immigration law. Some common examples include drug and weapons trafficking, prostitution, child pornography, and sex crimes. If you have been charged with what you believe is a crime involving moral turpitude or an aggravated felony, contact a Memphis immigration criminal defense lawyer immediately.

There are some exceptions to the strict and confusing laws regarding crimes committed by immigrants. There is what’s known as the petty offense exception, which states that if the maximum penalty for the crime is less than one year, and if the individual was sentenced to less than six months in prison, and that crime is his or her first and only offense, he or she will not be barred from receiving a visa, green card, or citizenship.

Juvenile crimes involving moral turpitude are also an exception. If the applicant was under 18 when the offense was committed, and if it was committed more than five years prior to the application, he or she will not be barred from receiving a visa, green card, or citizenship. No matter what the offense, though, if you are visa or green card holder in the Memphis area you should contact a Memphis criminal attorney to discuss your case.

The Media and Crime

Journalism and crime maintain an interesting relationship. Each relies on the other to survive and, in some cases, thrive. Media organizations regularly report on crime and often maintain dedicated “beats” or circuits that a particular journalist would be responsible for, such as the courts. Criminals on the other hand use the media for their own purposes as well. In some cases, criminals may be trying to get publicity, either for themselves or a specific cause. In other cases they may use the media to taunt the police. What cannot be denied is the relationship between the two. Yet, how is that relationship to be defined? What laws govern it and where does one, either the journalist or the criminal, draw the line?

Among the dynamic’s various manifestations is the journalist’s source. For as long as journalism has been a profession journalists have had to rely on “anonymous” tips from people for their information. These sources have been integral to the uncovering of a variety of crimes and sometimes, if not often, these people have been criminals themselves. Essentially, journalistic sources are no less different in role or function than police informants and as such, they are often accorded the same degree of protection by the media as an informant would be accorded by the police. This is all well and good as this system helps to encourage people to speak out without fear of persecution and we would probably see many more crimes and scandals simply swept under the carpet if not for it. However, there is another side to the coin which brings me to the crux of my discussion here. When, in fact, does this marriage of convenience between journalist and criminal break the rules? When does journalistic integrity become lost?

With the FIFA World Cup fast approaching this year, the media has been inundated with stories that have sought to highlight, sensationalise or refute the issue of crime in South Africa. There is has been one recent case in particular that has caught the public’s attention though. e.TV, a South African broadcaster, aired a news segment on the attitudes of local criminals to the tougher police stance on crime as well as any possible criminal opportunities during the World Cup. The two interviewed criminals vowed to continue perpetrating violent crime on people during the showpiece event with particular attention being given to foreign tourists. They also showed contempt for the police’s hard new approach and vowed to shoot any officers attempting to arrest them. The segment sparked an outcry with the police demanding that e.TV hand over the identities of the criminals interviewed. The station refused to do so and two journalists have now been subpoenaed to reveal their sources. The journalists claim that they cannot disclose the identities of their sources as it would compromise their journalistic integrity. Strictly speaking, this seems a fair point to make, but soon fades as the situation gets further complicated.

On Tuesday, the 19th of January 2010, the police found a body with a suicide note and biographical information on one of the e.TV journalists. The man had been poisoned. The note as well as the biographical information has led the police to allege that the body is in fact one of the interviewed criminals. According to unconfirmed radio reports on the day, the man allegedly blamed e.TV for ruining his life and decided to end it and this is where issues of journalistic integrity become more complicated for me. Was e.TV right to protect their sources? My answer is yes. However, what of the decision to air such a segment in the first place? I have to say no. It was a bad decision. Such a segment only served to sensationalise the realities of crime in South Africa. It was pure TV in that the only good it did was possibly increasing the station’s ratings. However, the segment ended up turning the police against the station not to mention public opinion. Finally, it led to the unnecessary death of a human being.

Essentially, this man, though criminal he may be, was sacrificed on the media alter of hits, ratings and sales and that is the very anti-thesis of journalist integrity. We in the media are encouraged to use all elements of society, be they criminal or not, to pursue stories for the greater good of the public and so we should. However, when that line gets blurred in the pursuit of sensationalism and money we have to ask ourselves, what line am I willing to cross and, more importantly, who will get hurt by this story. There are very few stories worth sacrificing lives for and this was not one of them.