Juvenile Justice: Age And Judicial Culpability

1595 words - 7 pages

This paper will first define culpability, explore its various levels and examine how it is used during sentencing. Next, this paper will examine literature that supports the belief that age is not the key factor in determining culpability and should not be used to determine guilt or innocence during trial. Finally, this paper will suggest that trying juveniles as adults and remanding them into adult facilities is ineffective at decreasing juvenile crime rates. These issues will be reviewed to determine if physical (chronological) age is a justifiable cause to lessen culpability or an excuse used to mask the ineffective research efforts of lawmakers.

Culpability has long been defined as a ...view middle of the document...

There are several types of judicial culpability: strict liability, knowingly, full moral agency, recklessly and negligence. If the person is found to be culpable, he or she can be blamed and held criminally responsible for the behaviors which were considered to be criminal in nature Smit (2005). The measure of culpability was found to be a vital part of many legal arguments and sentencing decisions. In rare cases, like strict liability crimes or engaging in conduct where his/her mental state is irrelevant, the accused will always be held responsible, regardless of their assumed culpability Smit (2005). According to Smit (2005), when someone committed a crime knowingly or in cases where the person was very certain that his/her conduct would lead to a certain result, their actions were often looked at as being the most serious form of blameworthiness. Also if the accused was also determined to have had what was called full moral agency or the ability to make moral and ethical decisions, he or she was considered to be culpable for the crime in question Giedd et al (1999). Each of these types of legal capabilities could be used to assist legal officials in determining the guilt or innocence of an accused person. Some criminals willingly engaged in activities that they know will possibly lead to a criminal event, become a danger, threat or cause harm to either themselves or others and choose to continue with the deed Giedd et al (1999). Many attorneys argued during trial hearings that the activities that took place during the time of the crime should exempt the offender from protective laws. This was based on the expectation that suggested that the participant knew that their actions were wrong but continued in that manner with the knowledge of what could result from their actions Corriero (2007).

In this instance, knowing and doing were the two areas that legal officials used to strengthen their cases for and against the accused juveniles and mentally ill adult offenders. Attorneys would argue that either the juvenile offender or mentally ill adult offender could not predict the end results of their actions due to immaturity, ignorance, a lack of understanding the consequences of their actions or were mentally ill at the time of the act based on the juvenile’s physical age and the status of the mentally ill adult offender. According to researchers, most juvenile and mentally ill adult crimes are done with the juvenile and mentally ill offender believing that a different outcome would have taken place Corriero (2007). It was believed that those who acted out under these circumstances should be considered negligent or unaware of the circumstances and consequences of his/her conduct whereas a "reasonable person" would have been aware refrained Siegel et al (2008).

Negligence in many cases did not represent guilt. Legally, a person was only considered to be negligent if he or she allowed a situation to take place that had an increased...

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