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New Law: Everyone Under 18 Is a Juvenile

Credit: State of Illinois
Credit: State of Illinois
By Rick Nagel

The decision about who is a juvenile and who isn't was always a little fuzzy for local law enforcers and news-media folks trying to cover crime stories. Some of the classification decisions were based on the type of offense, the age of the suspect at the time of the alleged offense or other factors. 

READ: 14 New Laws for the New Year

That's not the case as of Jan. 1, 2014, according to an excellent article by M. Lark Cowart in the latest edition of the Kane County State's Attorney's newsletter, Legal Ease.

Starting in 2014, it's "all into the pool," so to speak. Any suspect under 18 will be treated as a juvenile "based solely on age and independent from the class of offense," said Cowart, a Kane County assistant state’s attorney assigned to the Juvenile Delinquency and Abuse & Neglect units. 

Under existing law, youths age 15 or older can be excluded from the jurisdiction of the juvenile court and automatically transferred to adult criminal court if they were alleged to have committed certain crimes: first degree murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, aggravated battery with a firearm where the juvenile personally discharged the firearm, armed robbery committed with a firearm, or aggravated vehicular hijacking committed with a firearm, offenses relating to the sale, possession, and manufacturing of certain weapons on school property.

READ: New Cell Phone Requirements for Talking and Driving Start in 2014

"The good news is that our lives in law enforcement are getting simpler," Cowart wrote.

Under the new law, police officers are required to notify the offender's parents through Juvenile Court Services. They also must follow all procedures and safe-guards for interviewing juveniles, including having a juvenile officer present. 

Other existing procedures are the same. Officers still must call felony review for authorization of felonies involving juveniles and prepare a juvenile synopsis in
all cases. 

YOUR TURN: What do you think about the new law? Share your thoughts in the comments section.

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