Juvenile Justice: Age and Judicial Culpability

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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 legal term that is used by judicial officials to describe the level of responsibility each person has for a crime Giedd et al (1999). Prosecutors use courtroom jargon such as culpability based on physical age as a legal excuse to persuade courtroom officials to reduce sentences for juvenile offenders. Studies taken from Corriero (2007) revealed that a “normal” child can decipher right from wrong as early as the age of 2 physical years but it may take up to 1 additional year for an abnormal child to develop that same unit of cognitive measure. This statement suggests that although it may take longer for an“abnormal” child to reach the same level of understanding mentally, one calendar year does not have to open the door for lessened criminal liability. This raises the chronological age of normal children and lessens the age of abnormal children in many cases. For example, a 14 year old (chronological age) child can have the mental age of a 6 year old or vice versa. Juvenile accountability varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction throughout the ...

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