Though youth crime has gone down in the last few decades, it is still a serious problem in the United States. Committing juvenile crimes may impact a young person’s life for decades after the incident occurred. Numerous factors contribute to a teenager committing a crime, but the first step to reducing the number of juvenile crimes is understanding which crimes young people most commonly commit.
Status offenses are actions that the law considers crimes solely because of the age of the person. If an adult commits the same act, it is not illegal. Some of the most common status offenses include truancy, running away, and underage drinking. Girls are more likely to run away and boys account for most of the underage drinking offenses. Because status offenses are generally minor offenses, juvenile courts usually let social service agencies, family crisis units, and county attorneys handle them.
Property crimes involve damaging or stealing another person’s property. Some common examples are burglary, larceny, theft, and arson. More than 60% of the youths arrested for property crimes are boys and more than one-quarter of the total juveniles arrested for property crimes are younger than 18.
Violent crimes are the most serious juvenile crimes. Violent crimes include murder, forcible rape, robbery, and aggravated assault. People under the age of 18 accounts for almost one-quarter of all violent crimes committed in the United States. Most violent crimes occur between three and five in the afternoon, which is the time when most schools get out. Though both girls and boys commit violent crimes, boys account for over 80% of juvenile violent crimes.
Juveniles in Adult Court
Recently, it has become more common for states to try juveniles in adult courts. Lawmakers are passing laws all over the country that are lowering the minimum age for adult court. A juvenile’s case can move to adult court in one of three ways – judicial waiver, statutory exclusion, and direct file.
Judicial waivers are the most common ways to transfer a juvenile to adult court. A juvenile can be as young as 13 or 14 for the court to put him or her into adult court. New York, Nebraska, and New Mexico are the only states that do not provide judicial waivers.
The court uses statutory exclusion as a method to transfer a juvenile who committed an excluded offense to adult court; an excluded offense is an act that lets the court treat a juvenile as an adult from the beginning. In 28 states, statutes provide specifications that allow the court to treat an offending juvenile as an adult if he or she fits into a certain category. The states of New Mexico, Arizona, and Mississippi only include the most serious offenses.
The third way to transfer a juvenile to adult court is through a direct file. It gives the prosecutor the right to decide where to file the case. Usually, both juvenile and adult criminal courts will hear cases that involve certain offenses. Each state has specific guidelines regarding criteria for the direct file.
Factors That Impact Juvenile Crimes
Many factors contribute to a juvenile committing a crime. Culture, ethnicity, and race still form the background and play a part in both juvenile and adult crimes. However, individual and family factors exist that put a child more at risk for criminal behavior. Some of the individual risk factors include:
- Early aggressive behavior
- Substance abuse
- Association with peers who are bad influences
Some potential family and community risk factors include:
- Poor treatment growing up
- Parents with a criminal record
If your child has been arrested for a crime in Arizona, contact an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney who understands the juvenile justice system in Arizona and can formulate a defense strategy to preserve your child’s rights.