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Kids and Crime: Connecticut Passes ‘Raise the Age’ Law

A separate justice system for juveniles is not some sentimental Victorian notion that has no place in today's tough-minded criminal justice system. Cutting-edge research increasingly shows that the parts of the brain regulating risk taking and rational control are still not fully formed in teenagers.

Holding juveniles to adult standards, then, is a very problematic policy. Fortunately, Connecticut has finally passed "Raise the Age" legislation to require young offenders under the age of 18 to have their cases heard in juvenile court and be segregated from adult prisoners.

This article will discuss the likely impact of this law on Connecticut juvenile offenders.

Juvenile Justice in Connecticut

Historically, juvenile justice in the U.S. has been based on the principle that kids who commit offenses should not be punished in the adult system. The idea was that the focus of a separate juvenile system should be on rehabilitating youthful offenders.

Over time, the demarcation between the two systems began to erode precipitously. As America ratcheted up its sentencing laws in the last 30 years, more and more juveniles have been tried as adults. This has not only included 16 and 17-year-olds, but also many kids even younger.

Concern about the specter of 14-year-old kids in adult prisons finally helped push the pendulum back the other way. More and more states acted to re-establish that young people under the age of 18 should normally have their cases heard in juvenile court, not the adult system.

By 2009, Connecticut was one of only three states to regularly subject 16 and 17-year-olds to the adult criminal system. But in 2010, Connecticut, too, began to change course. In that year, the state started to again treat 16-year-olds as juveniles.

In July 2012, the reform went farther still. Connecticut became the 37 th state to pass a "Raise the Age" law. This law makes clear that juveniles under the age of 18 should generally have their cases decided in the juvenile system, not the adult one.

Transfer to Adult System

This does not mean that Connecticut juveniles can no longer be dealt with at all in the adult system. When there are charges of serious crimes, juveniles can still potentially have their cases transferred to the adult courts. This applies to Class A and B felonies.

If your juvenile child is in trouble with the law, strong advocacy is vitally important. This is especially so if the charges potentially involve a transfer to the adult criminal system. An experienced defense lawyer can tackle the issues on your behalf and work to resolve the case justly within the law.

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