This is because a young adult may not have the maturity, wisdom, experience, and thought process of an adult. Young adults are still growing, and they may not appreciate the consequences of their behavior.
As a result, the court system tries to differentiate between youthful mistakes and serious crimes. With the right treatment, a younger offender is often more likely to be rehabilitated and become a productive member of society.
Punishments in the juvenile justice system are typically less harsh and can include a fine, counseling, probation, community service, house arrest, electronic monitoring, or a sentence (usually shorter) in a juvenile detention facility.
However, minors can sometimes be tried as adults—depending on the severity of the crime, their criminal record, and their age. Less serious, non-violent crimes like shoplifting, for example, might go through the juvenile court. More serious crimes like murder, on the other hand, are more likely to go through the adult criminal justice system. Minors who have committed previous crimes or are older are more likely to be tried as adults.
In California, minors as young as 14 can be sent to adult criminal court.
When tried as adults, minors face the same punishments that adults do.
A recent case, reported by CNN, illustrates this exact scenario. In Connecticut, a 16-year-old boy has been charged in the slashing death of his classmate, Maren Sanchez.
Sanchez was slashed in the stairwell of her school in the early morning and was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital soon after.
The motive for the murder is still unknown. However, according to CNN, “police were looking into whether the boy was angry after Sanchez rejected him as a prom date.”
The boy allegedly told the school police officer “I did it. Just arrest me.” He was taken into custody and charged with murder as an adult.
If convicted, he faces 25 to 60 years in prison.