Louisiana considers increasing age for criminal liability

Most 17-year-olds are still in high school. None have the right to vote and none have the right to purchase alcohol or cigarettes. Those rights do not come until later in the youths’ lives; however, in Louisiana, a 17-year-old child can be charged as an adult if they commit a crime.

Recently, however, the state has begun the legislative process of changing that anomaly. The state Senate has approved a bill that would remove these teens from the adult criminal justice system and place them in the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system. The bill is now before the House.

This blog has previously discussed the differences between the adult system and the juvenile system for crime in Louisiana. Generally, individuals who go through the juvenile system may have the benefit of having their records sealed or otherwise closed when they reach adulthood and often face less stringent penalties for their crimes than they would if they faced criminal charges in the adult system.

Juveniles are afforded these advantages for the simple fact they are still children. Their minds and bodies are still growing and they are still in the process of developing their impulse and cognitive controls. Seventeen-year-olds, though technically close to becoming adults, are still kids and this shift in penalizing the alleged commission of their crimes may give some the opportunity to change their futures in the juvenile court system rather than getting lost in the adult court system.

Under the proposed law, Louisiana law enforcement officials may still arrest 17-year-olds and charge them with crimes. However, those youths may be afforded the same treatment as other children who allegedly commit similar crimes. Criminal defense attorneys in the state can discuss this possible shift in policy with their clients as the state’s legislature moves closer to making it law.

Source: nola.com, “At what age an adult? Many in Louisiana say 17 is too young,” May 7, 2016

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