A Denver “summer of violence” in 1993 prompted state legislators to pass laws intended to crack down on juvenile offenders. Nearly 20 years later, reports the New York Times, Colorado is revisiting a law that gives prosecutors the power to charge youths as adults in serious crimes without first getting approval from a judge. Opponents of the law say it gives prosecutors virtually unchecked power over juveniles and has been used too broadly.
Critics say teenagers accused of midlevel crimes like robbery and burglary are too often tried as adults and saddled with felony convictions that will stay with them forever, as well as time in adult prisons. Colorado is the latest state to take a second look at juvenile crime laws, passed largely because of rising crime during the 1980s and '90s. Such laws vary widely, and most states give juvenile judges the authority to transfer a child's case into an adult court if a crime is severe enough. A pending proposal, opposed by prosecutors, would require a judge to approve trying a juvenile as an adult. The Colorado District Attorneys’ Council says the number of direct-file cases was down to 61 last year.