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Will Colorado go easier on juveniles in criminal justice system?

Being accused of a crime or landing in Colorado's criminal justice system is a stressful and scary situation for any adult. Imagine the fear and risk involved for a teenager who is accused of a crime and facing criminal charges. It's a point in a young person's life that could forever change his or her life's trajectory.

Because a criminal conviction can so significantly alter a young person's future, it's important for lawmakers to evaluate the way that juveniles are handled within the criminal justice system. Colorado lawmakers are reevaluating the system, with a proposal that seeks to limit prosecutors' freedom to charge a juvenile as an adult in certain cases.

Sources report that a proposal is heading to the governor that could mean fewer juveniles get charged as adults in Colorado. In 1993, the system changed in a way that meant harsher treatment towards juveniles who were charged with a crime. Now, supporters of the new proposal see that treating youth as adults needs to slow down and be reserved only for the most serious of violent crimes, including murder and some sex crimes.

Those who oppose the bill argue that wise discretion is already used when deciding to charge a juvenile as an adult. The prosecutors decide when to move forward with adult charges, and the new proposal would put that decision making process into the hands of judges.

Young people are inexperienced at life. They are mentally and emotionally incapable of judging the consequences of their actions in the way that adults can. They make mistakes. It's dangerous for a teenager's mistake to too easily lead to an adult felony charge.

This proposal could reduce some of that danger, according to its supporters. When there are developments regarding the bill, we will post an update.

Source: The Associated Press, "Colo. bill to limit DA's power to charge youths goes to governor's desk," April 5, 2012

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