Articles Posted in Juvenile Crime

Colorado’s juvenile court system handles criminal charges brought against “juveniles,” or people under age 18. Like adults charged with Colorado crimes, juveniles also have a right to be represented by an attorney.

The goals of juvenile cases often differ from the goals for an adult criminal case. Although both hold proceedings to determine whether the charged person is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, in adult cases the purpose of the sentence is generally to punish the person if he or she is found guilty. In juvenile court, however, the goal is to teach, train, or rehabilitate the child as well as to hold him or her responsible for misbehaving.

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The difference in goals leads to several differences in how a juvenile case goes forward. For instance, in many juvenile cases, the child’s parents or guardians are also required to attend court hearings and to help carry out any sentence or treatment the court requires. If the parents or guardians aren’t able or willing to get involved, the court may appoint another person, known as a “guardian ad litem,” to act in the parent’s or guardian’s place.
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Colorado law considers the age of majority to be 18-years-old in many cases, including for many criminal charges. At 18, a young person who is charged with a crime in Colorado may have to deal with the general courts, instead of with the juvenile courts that specialize in working with younger individuals.

At 18, a young person is no longer considered a “juvenile” for situations like fighting or other assaults, reckless driving, and many other acts. A young person can also be tried in criminal courts for offenses related to drinking, since the drinking age in Colorado – just like in every other U.S. state – is 21-years-old, not 18. These include both minor in possession of alcohol matters and driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).

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Over arguments about whether or not to change Colorado’s system allowing prosecutors to charge many people under 18 as adults, the state’s governor recently signed into law a bill that limits the use of “direct filing” to the most serious crimes, according to a recent article in the JD Journal. The law restricts the power of prosecutors to charge juveniles as adults who are suspected of criminal behavior.

juvenile-alley-2001494.jpgBefore the new law went into effect, Colorado prosecutors had broad discretion whether or not to charge many young people as adults. Under the “direct filing” system, a person as young as 14 could be tried as an adult, even for a low-level or mid-level felony. Although many prosecutors restricted their power to try juveniles as adults to older teens and the most serious charges, advocates of the change say that the presence of the power made it more likely to be abused.

The new bill raises the minimum age for being tried as an adult from 14 to 16 years old. It also restricts use of adult charges to the most serious classes of Colorado felonies.
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After a recent school shooting situation in Ohio, many parents and community members are once again beginning to wonder how safe our schools are. However, experts say that while common sense is always a good thing, many fears are inflated, because the nation’s public schools actually see less violence and fewer criminal activities than in the past, according to a report by National Public Radio (NPR).

A school researcher at the University of Virginia notes that, despite the big press coverage given to situations like the ones at Columbine in Colorado and Virginia Tech, school violence has actually been decreasing steadily over the past fifteen years. In fact, statistics show that high school and college students are actually safer on campus than they are on an ordinary city street.

Despite the declines in risk, however, many experts say that school “zero-tolerance” policies, which can lead to expulsion or other juvenile court situations for actual or potential violence, weapons, and other infractions, have not helped make schools safer. Instead, many experts think these policies are actually counterproductive, since they prevent administrators and teachers from making case-by-case decisions in the best interests of the particular student and also risk sticking a student with an unnecessary and undeserved juvenile or criminal record.
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In 1993, Colorado passed a law allowing children under age 18 to be tried as adults for certain offenses, usually felonies. However, the increase in young people being tried and sentenced as adults in that time has led lawmakers to reconsider this law, according to a recent news report from CBS.Colorado Springs Juvenile Crime

Traditionally, prosecutors have always had discretion to consider adult charges for children under 18 in serious felony situations, such as premeditated murder. After an outbreak of gang violence in 1993, however, Colorado lawmakers broadened the power of prosecutors to charge young people as adults. The result has been that many youths, particularly in the 14-to-17-year-old age range, have been tried and sentenced as adults for lesser offenses, such as burglary, in addition to more serious felony juvenile crimes.
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Juvenile “boot camps” have been adopted in several states as a way for young people to reform after a juvenile court finds they’ve broken the law. The boot camp programs in most states began with programs for adults, but as courts and politicians have seen how these programs fared, they’ve been extended in ten states – including Colorado – to cover younger people as well. Although politicians and other officials still praise these programs, questions remain as to how effective they are for those who participate.

Most boot camp programs involve a combination of physical exercise and training, discipline, training in confidence and leadership, and a military-like atmosphere that often also offers drug counseling and other types of therapy, especially when juveniles are involved. Most participants stay in these programs for 90 to 180 days, after which they are sent back to their communities, often with detailed instructions on any necessary follow-up treatment or counseling.
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court_house_1983354.jpgColorado juvenile court is designed to assist minors in realizing a pattern of damaging behavior while providing guidance for positive future changes. The Colorado juvenile court system handles a broad range of charges for minors between the ages of 10 and 17 years old, from lighter infractions like school expulsions and suspensions to weighty juvenile felony crimes.

All 22 judicial districts in Colorado have their own county and district courts. The juvenile court system operates as a part of the state’s district courts, with the exception of Denver, which has its own. If a minor is taken into custody by law enforcement officials for criminal charges (on the state or local level), his or her parents/guardian must be notified. At that time, the minor may be freed to his or her parents, screened for more preliminary information, or held further in a juvenile facility after a proper screening, all depending on the nature of the crime. The courts are required to hold a hearing within 48 hours of detainment for those held in a state facility.
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Colorado Juvenile Mischief PenaltiesCriminal mischief is described under Colorado state law to include any act that involves knowing destruction to another person’s property during one criminal offense. The law, found under Criminal Mischief (18-4-501), also covers a property owned together by a party.

Regularly seen offenses of Colorado criminal mischief are vandalism and property destruction, which may also include trespassing charges and others depending on the circumstances of the act. In Colorado, young people (or “juveniles” ages 10 to 17 years old) accused of criminal mischief usually face accounts of vandalizing or damaging property. These types of charges can either be misdemeanors or felonies, again depending on the conditions of the crime and the determined value of the managed property.
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In Colorado, a person under the age of 18 years old is deemed a juvenile by state law. That means, if charged with a criminal offense, he or she will be viewed and handled in a different manner by the justice system than those older than 18. In fact, according to Colorado state law section 19-2-104, C.R.S., the Colorado juvenile court and justice system has exclusive authority over any juvenile case involving a minor older than 10 years of age that involves certain offenses and circumstances. However, whether or not a case is handled by juvenile court depends entirely on the nature of the offense and circumstances of the crime.

Generally, offenses involving violations classified on the less severe side of the criminal scale, or those that would be otherwise legal if they were an adult (status offenses), are often handled in juvenile court. But a serious crime, such as a felony (delinquency offenses), can cause a case to be transferred to a district court, which holds a much more severe capacity for punishment. Typically, the older an offender is and the more severe the crime committed increase the level of punishment.
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Colorado was one of the first states in the U.S. to create a separate juvenile criminal justice system for people between ages 10 and 17 who were suspected of committing crimes. Today, Colorado’s juvenile courts still handle the vast majority of cases involving this age group, but Colorado law allows district attorneys to submit certain juvenile cases to the state’s district courts instead. If the case is tried in district court, the juvenile accused of the crime may be tried under the same rules that apply to adults 18 and older.

When deciding whether or not to transfer a case from juvenile to district court, the district attorney considers factors such as the juvenile’s age, the type and severity of the charges, and the suspected juvenile’s past history with the courts. Younger persons who are charged with less serious crimes and who have no past history of criminal activity will rarely, if ever, be tried as adults.
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