Idaho Initiative Seeks Reform Of Juvenile Felon Laws


A rally is planned Tuesday in Idaho as a part of a campaign to eliminate a state law that anyone 14 or older must be tried as an adult if charged with murder or certain other serious crimes, reports the Idaho Statesman. University of Idaho professor Eric Jensen says judges, not lawmakers, should determine whether an underage offender should be tried as an adult. State law should establish clear criteria – such as age, severity of the crime and criminal history – to determine when a minor can be legally treated as an adult rather than automatically being routed into the adult system, he said.

Idaho’s judges do have discretion to send many teens convicted as adults to juvenile detention rather than an adult prison, but that option cannot be used for teens convicted of murder or treason. “A basic tenet of criminal law is that a person must form the intent to commit a crime to be found guilty of committing the offense,” Jensen said. “The juvenile justice system (was) founded, in part, on a belief that juveniles are not fully cognitively developed. This basic principle has been swept aside by policymakers since the Reagan revolution with the expansion of mandatory or legislative waiver statutes.”

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