Task force recommends changes in process for juvenile crimes

Minors can get into some trouble with the legal system. There is a court system specifically designated to deal with juvenile crimes. However, according to a report from the Tennessee Blue Ribbon Task Force, there has been little consistency in the treatment of minors in the justice system.

The report details instances of how one offense may be handled differently by different courts. In one circumstance, a juvenile may be placed in a diversion program, while another may be tried in juvenile court. In other instances, a juvenile may be tried as an adult. The task force attributes this to a lack of standards being applied in the system.

There have also been allegations that minority juveniles are treated differently than their white counterparts in court. The task force noted that every county in the state exhibited these racial disparities. Statistically, 34 percent of the youth population is black, yet they represent 59 percent of delinquent petitions in the state.

The task force also recommended that schools revise their zero-tolerance policies to allow more discretion in decisions involving drug use. Another suggestion was to allow officers to issue tickets or citations for misdemeanors rather than requiring a court appearance. Also, the task force stated that any statement made by a juvenile under the age of 14 should not be used against that minor in criminal proceedings.

Some teenagers make poor choices and find themselves facing charges for juvenile crimes. It is important to remain in the juvenile court system and not be tried as an adult. A Tennessee criminal defense attorney can help clients and their families understand the legal process and work toward developing the strongest defense possible. An experienced lawyer will hopefully minimize the negative impact on a juvenile's life.

Source: memphisdailynews.com, "Panel Finds Juvenile Court Standards Lacking", Bill Dries, Dec. 28, 2017

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