There has been a case in the news recently that has started to get more people talking about criminal actions and age. A teenage girl in Massachusetts was arrested after the death of her boyfriend, who committed suicide. She was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter after evidence found that she was texting with her boyfriend and convincing him to end his life instead of calling his family or friends for help. One of the biggest questions posed from an outside perspective was whether or not this girl should be charged as an adult. At the time of the crime, she was three weeks away from her eighteenth birthday. However, due to the nature of the crime, the case was tried in adult court, and she was sentenced to two and a half years in prison.
In the eyes of the law, a person legally becomes an adult on their eighteenth birthday. But in some cases, a minor who has committed a crime may be looked at as an adult before that birthday comes around.
If someone is under the age of 18 and commits a crime, they will typically be seen in juvenile court. Juvenile court presides over certain cases relating to children, such as children who are in need of assistance (in situations such as being neglected, abused or abandoned by parents or guardians), adoption, and delinquency cases. Delinquency is seen as an act by a child that would constitute a crime of committed by an adult. In juvenile court, there are two disposition options: probation or placement. If the minor gets probation, they need to comply with all conditions that the court gives them or they will go back to court and be subject to consequences. If placement is necessary, the minor might be placed in a treatment center, foster care or a state institution.
If the minor is at least 14 years old and the case involves violent criminal behavior, what’s known as a waiver hearing may be held. A judge in juvenile court may send a child to adult court if they feel that there are no reasonable prospects to rehabilitate the child in juvenile court. If the case if waived to adult court, then the child is subject to the same procedures and penalties that adults face.
Under Iowa law, any person 16 years or older who commits a forcible felony will be tried as an adult. Forcible felonies are crimes that are deemed more violent, such as sexual assault, voluntary manslaughter, or murder. If found guilty, the minor can face anything from paying fines, probation, jail or prison time. A minor charged as an adult, however cannot be sentenced to death. The Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the death penalty for offenders younger than the age of 18 at the time of the crime violates the Eighth Amendment, which states that there is to be no cruel or unusual punishments inflicted.
It is important that to remember that no matter what charges your child might be facing, they have the right to a lawyer for both juvenile court and adult court. A lawyer can be appointed to the case of the child or the parents do not have the money to retain private counsel.
At Fankhauser Rachel, PLC, we are real people who offer our clients real solutions when they are facing struggles and obstacles. If your child is in need of fair representation in juvenile court, please contact us today.