A special task force looking at whether many juveniles should face criminal charges as adults is starting to write recommended law changes for next year’s legislature.
The Juvenile Justice Task Force appears to be leaning toward making it harder to let children as young as twelve face criminal charges as adults and face being put into adult prisons.
Washington University law professor Mae Quinn argues the present system does not require the juvenile officer to justify such a transfer or to prove there is enough evidence to go forward at the adult level. In fact, says Quinn, the law requires a certification hearing on some crimes even if the juvenile officer doesn’t want one. For example, “a young man with no prior record whatsoever…charged with having a few bags of marijuana at school.” Quinn says present law requires a just to consider a transfer to adult court “and possible years of prisons time.”
She says a 2009 study of juvenile cases moved to adult courts in St. Louis shows half of those cases were dismissed because of evidence issues.
The task force has written a draft of three recommendations but members say much more work is ahead before they become suggested new laws.