Should Juveniles Be Treated as Adults in Criminal Court?

should juveniles be treated as adultsThere is a debate in the state legislature this legislative session about changing our current laws which allow 17-year olds who cannot vote, drink or smoke to be tried as adults in adult court.  Texas has always been a tough on crime state and the question arises will relaxing this option send the wrong message to young people who get in trouble with the law.  Will it make for more youth crime, in other words?

I don’t think it does and there is strong evidence to support this.

The majority of juveniles get in trouble for some minor offense – a fight, possession of marijuana or even truancy which is a criminal offense in Texas – truancy isn’t a criminal offense in 48 other states.  These are not necessarily hardened and habitual criminals from which society needs to be protected.  They are kids and young adults that have problems and they need help with those problems.  Per a recent story in the Dallas Morning News, this softer approach is working in Dallas County and the recidivism rate (the number of people who re-offend after going to jail) there is now low.

We do not need more kids in the justice system.  We need less.  We need to stress the importance of family support, how additional tools in the class room can help, and how kids need a moral compass of their own rather than the threat of punishment to keep them on the right side of the law.  One excellent little book I know of is the Way to Happiness which has been in circulation for more than three decades.

Compassion and understanding for the situation that put them there in the first place is necessary. Solutions exist outside of detention and already exist in the community that can be implemented to turn a juvenile indiscretion into an opportunity to turn around an entire future.  It takes a village to raise a child.

So I applaud the Texas Legislature for moving ahead and being tough on crime by being understanding of our youth.

DWI and DUI in Texas

It’s never a good idea at any time to drive under the influence of alcohol. But if you or someone you love has, then you need to know what to expect if you get arrested in Texas for driving while intoxicated (DWI) or, if you are a minor, driving under the influence (DUI).

DWI indicates that a driver:

  • cannot safely operate a vehicle due to impairment by either drugs or alcohol;
  • is intoxicated to a level that’s above established DWI standards, as determined by a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) test.

In Texas–which is a zero-tolerance state–you can be charged with DWI even if your blood alcohol level falls below the accepted maximum of .08%.  A first offense for a DWI is a class B misdemeanor. However, if you are arrested with a blood alcohol of .12% or higher, you may face felony charges, particularly if you have been convicted of a DWI in the last 10 years or caused an accident with injuries.

If you are under the age of 21, then getting caught for drinking and driving can result in a DUI charge. For a 1st DUI offense, possible penalties may include a 60-day license suspension, a fine of up to $500, community service and mandatory enrollment in an alcohol awareness program.

If you are under 18, similar penalties apply but a parent or guardian must accompany you at all of your court appearances. If the blood alcohol exceeds the maximum .08%, a court may decide to fine you up to $2000 and impose a one-year license suspension as well as a 180-day jail sentence.

The best advice is not to drink and drive at any time. But if you do and get arrested, then you should seek immediate legal assistance. The attorneys at the Barrera Law Firm are experts in Texas criminal law and can  aggressively defend your rights. We’re there to stand by you when you need us most!

Photo credit: Suat Eman