To a mixed reaction, the Illinois governor has signed into law a bill that allows for the automatic transfer of some crimes committed by youth offenders who are at least 15 years of age to adult courts. The crimes defined are limited to physical assault, sexual assault and use of a gun. The mixed reaction is understandable when you begin to look at the details of what this law means.
The prosecutor must petition
This law does not mean that all youth offenders who commit the specified crimes will be automatically transferred to adult court. It is left to the prosecutor to petition the court for the transfer. As always, you’ll want to consult aHouston DWI attorney. Age and crime are only enough to allow for a petition for transfer to be made. Once the petition is made for transfer, the court will then consider it.
Allowing the court time to consider factors
That process of petition is designed to allow the court time to consider influencing factors in the case. Even if the 15 year old commits the textbook violation covered by this law it does not automatically mean their case is transferred to adult court. In fact, automatic transfers are now a thing of the past. The court must consider other factors in the case before deciding which court system will hear the case. This is meant as a protection for the youth offender, but it also serves to increase the workload on an already strained judicial system.
What gets excluded?
What gets excluded has many lawyers and advocates upset. While a 15 year old who uses a gun during an assault and battery can be transferred to an adult court, the 15 year old who stomped the head of the elderly man who the other boy held the gun on would not. The restrictions provided for implementation on this law are not well considered according to many in law enforcement. A repeat offender who commits assault and battery without a weapon may be of greater risk to society than the one time car-jacker with a Saturday Night Special. While not claiming that the law is arbitrary, law enforcement officials fault it for allowing for the wrong factors to be considered by the court before transferring a juvenile case to an adult court.
What this means to youth offenders
There are pluses and minuses to this law for youth offenders. For those who are on the repeat offender track it can put them into an adult facility in which there are better programs available for the treatment of drug and mental health problems. It also opens the door to a lesser sentence option as is talked about in the last paragraph. On the downside, age is no longer an automatic protection against an adult criminal trial. If you use a weapon or commit a physical or sexual assault you can no longer use immaturity as a defense.
Walking the line with advocates
This law is both winning and losing with child advocates. It can be difficult to walk the line when trying to present a course of action to a client’s parental guardian. Transferring a child to an adult court can have its benefits if any juvenile convictions are excluded from evidence. This could raise the chances of a first offense judgment and allow for a better course of intervention where as in juvenile court all prior convictions may be allowed and sentencing be more severe. Make sure you weight the options from every angle before presenting your case to your client to petition for transfer or to choose to remain in juvenile court.