Research shows that many juvenile crimes reflect a lack of impulse control
and rational judgment, rather than serious criminal tendencies.
Juveniles are often emotionally volatile and impulsive, as most parents
in Riverside know firsthand. These traits can cause juveniles to take
risks and make decisions that appear questionable to mature adults. Sometimes,
these decisions don't have harmful long-term ramifications. Unfortunately,
in some cases, young people may end up facing
juvenile criminal chargesand life-changing consequences.
Understanding the juvenile brain
As ABC News explains, a juvenile's brain is fundamentally different
from a mature adult's brain in a few ways. By the teenage years, the
parts of the brain that respond to emotions and peer pressure are highly
functional. However, the frontal lobes of the brain are still developing.
This region of the brain is responsible for several key tasks, including:
- Assessing long-term outcomes
- Planning past the short term
- Repressing impulses
- Resisting peer pressure
Since this part of the brain is still developing, teenagers may be prone
to make irrational decisions. Instead of looking at long-term consequences
and alternative courses of action, teens may respond primarily to emotions
and peer pressure. As a result, they may act spontaneously and aggressively,
and they may even violate the law.
An impulsive offense
One high-profile crime that occurred in Oakland in 2013 helped draw attention
to this tendency. According to ABC News, a 17-year old teenager allegedly
set the clothing of another teenager on fire on a public bus. The second
teenager suffered second- and third-degree burns. The first teenager's
attorney described the incident as a prank that wasn't intended to
cause harm, and the teenager expressed feelings of intense regret over
The teenager pled no contest to
assault charges, and he was sentenced to seven years in prison. However, this sentence
was recently downgraded because of the progress that the teenager made
through custodial counseling and rehabilitation. The family of the injured
teenager has even expressed support for this reduced sentence. After reading
letters of apology from the incarcerated teenager, the family views his
actions as a spontaneous and unplanned mistake.
Rehabilitation and treatment
According to ABC News, a history of juvenile offenses isn't a reliable
predictor that a person will commit crimes as an adult. For example, research
shows that people commit more violence toward others during their juvenile
years. However, up to three-quarters of juveniles who commit violent offenses
don't continue doing so as adults. They instead learn to control their
impulses and move past these tendencies. This means that rehabilitation
may be more effective for juveniles than adults.
Research increasingly shows that juveniles do not have the same power to
think rationally and control their impulses as adults do. Therefore, whenever
juveniles are charged with criminal offenses, the complex factors that
underlie those alleged offenses should be considered. Similarly, the ability
of juveniles to respond to rehabilitation should be taken into account.
In California, the juvenile justice system seeks primarily to treat and
rehabilitate convicted offenders, rather than punishing them. Still, the
long-term consequences of a conviction can be significant. Consequently,
most juveniles facing criminal charges can benefit from speaking with
an attorney about challenging those charges or working toward reduced