children tried as Adults

Should children who commit adult crimes be tried as adults?

This has been a very controversial question throughout the years since there are many arguments for and against the issue with each side defending their stand strongly. In my own opinion i think that children who are under the age of 18 years should not be tried as adults when they commit a heinous crime. They should instead only be tried in juvenile courts which only aim to rehabilitate them until a certain period unlike in adult courts where they receive severe sentences like death penalties.

My arguments

Am strongly against the trying of children as adults for their crimes because i do not think that these children are mature yet to understand the magnitude of what they are doing. Children who are under the age of 18 years are not of sound mind to know that some of the things that they are doing are illegal and can get them into trouble with the law. That is why in many countries all over the world juveniles only get their identity cards when they attain the age of 18 and this supports my argument. Some of these children are only following directions given to them by older members of the society including their parents and guardians to commit crimes like stealing. As a result these children believe that they are doing nothing wrong since the directions came from adults who they trust. Some children are just ignorant of their illegal actions while others are lured into crimes by others (peer pressure).

I have heard of cases where 8-15 year-olds are tried as adults and are later given a guilty verdict which can carry a term of 30years to life imprisonment. Some of them may even receive a death sentence. These children lose most of their childhood in jail while they could have been productive to the society given the right push. In fact instead of being reformed, they become more violent during their time in prison. When they are finally out in the society they return to crime since that is only what they know. Given the history of our judicial system, justice may not always be fair since there are many cases of innocent people being given the guilty verdict. One cannot compare a grown up’s mind with that of a 14 or 15 year old thus i strongly believe that they should be tried at juvenile courts which is more lenient.

Jeb Bush, a U.S governor, argued that there is a different standard for children and there should be more sensitivity that a 14 year old is not a little adult. This was after a 14-year old was found guilty of second degree murder for killing his English teacher (Reaves 9).

Drugs and alcohol also play a major part in children committing adult crimes. Under the influence of stimulants, children may end up on the wrong side of the law since the drugs influence them into committing rape, murder, stealing and many more crimes.

In some states trying of children as adults does not yield any fruit as the rate of juvenile crimes is still in the rise. Bishop (81) argues that deterrence for juveniles does not work since they are more prone to emotional behaviour and are much less likely to think through all their actions thus even if penalties are harsher, they have no significant impact. Juveniles going through adolescence are emotional due to the changes they experience thus do not think straight.

When a child is tried as an adult, he is viewed as a felon and this goes permanently into his or her record. This will in the future harm his job prospects. With no job, the only alternative will be to return back to crime. In addition it will be impossible to find a quality job. A felony conviction and a sentence to probation will significantly harm a child’s job prospects with the effects lasting as much as a decade later (Bogira 10).

Recently there has been a report in the media that an 8-year old boy has been charged with the premeditated double murder of his father and another man. The boy who is a third grader may be charged as an adult for the crime. Reports also indicate that the father taught the son how to use guns to shoot prairie dogs. (O’Neill 3). This 8 year old is too young to know what he was doing and should not be tried as an adult as a person that young cannot possibly premeditate the murder of two adult men. The father also did a mistake of teaching him how to use gun or even allowing him near a gun knowing that he may use it sometime later to commit a crime. As parents, we sometimes unknowingly teach our children vices not knowing how they will be affected. For instance, a child who has grown up in an abusive home where he sees his father beating up the mother may adopt that behaviour later in his life which will land him in jail.

When a juvenile is tried in an adult court, the conviction can result in the loss of rights, including the right to vote and right to own a firearm (LaMance 2). These are but a few of the consequences of trying juveniles as adults.

Opposing arguments

There are also opposing arguments for this issue with some believing that children should in fact be tried as adults when they commit crimes such as killing since crime is crime no matter who commits it. They argue that when the justice system becomes lenient with them, they will commit more crime since they know that they will receive minimum sentence. While many states do not consider children for the death penalty, some state consider 16-17 year olds for the death penalty. Defence attorneys in the United State argue that since most of the drop-off in juvenile crime is seen in most states, harsher penalties for young offenders should be embraced (Reaves 9). Some people can argue that children will think more carefully about their crime if they know that they will receive adult sentences.

Morals of people are inherent from birth meaning that kids and adults should know the difference between right and wrong (HCHS1259 1). If a child has bad behaviour, it does not mean that the bad behaviours were forced into them rather that they are have chosen to be like that out of their own free will. This therefore means that a crime is committed willingly by the offender and they are of sound mind while doing that.

Bogira (44) says that the rate of murders by kids has skyrocketed in the world and the number of 17 year-olds are arrested for murder climbed 121% in the latter half of the 80’s, the number of 16-year- olds by 158% and the number of 15-year-olds by 217%. Their actions cause great pain and suffering of crime victims, medical costs to individuals and government because of injuries suffered due to crime, property stolen or damaged resulting from crime, medical and mental disabilities resulting from crime and costs incurred by the government to operate the criminal justice system.

Gina Savini, an assistant attorney, argues that if the children are old enough to pick up a gun and shoot it, then they are old enough to take responsibility for their actions (Bogira 46). Some governments recognize that teenagers are able to make decisions for themselves and thus do not need protection from the state.

Others say that deterring of juveniles does work in reducing the number if juvenile crime. The chances of imprisoning these children increased in the USA between 1981 and 1995 and fell in England and Wales. During the same period crime fell in the USA and increased in England and Wales. (Langan et al 63)

There are some advantages of trying juveniles in adult criminal court (O’Neill) and these include;

  • Minors have the right to a jury trial in adult court since most states do not provide a right to a jury in juvenile court.
  • Juries in adult court may be more sympathetic to minors.
  • In some jurisdictions where jails are crowded, the court may be inclined to dispose of the juvenile’s case more quickly and impose a lighter sentence.


I still stand by my opinion that children should not be tried as adults in a court when they commit a crime. I cannot find any reason to support the fact that an 8 year old boy should be tried in the same court as a 50 year-old man who has committed the same crime. The two are nowhere comparable in term of maturity. Imagine an 8-year old sitting in an adult court where he may receive a death penalty of life imprisonment. What could he possibly understand while sitting through the proceedings?

Although these children have to be punished, adult courts are not the solution no matter how grave the crime is. The cons of trying their crimes as adult crimes outweigh the pros for this argument.

Works cited

Jessica, Reaves. Should the law treat kids and adults differently? Time U.S, 2012. Print.

Daniel, Bishop. Juvenile offenders in the adult criminal system. (New York), 2001. Print.

Linsey O’Neill. Children charged with murder…should they be tried as adults.ESQ. 2012. Web.

27 April. 2012.

Langan, Perry, Daniel, Farrington. Crime and justice in the USA and in England and Wales.

Institute for the study of civil service, 1998. Print.

Byhchs1259. Houston, Texas.2012. Web. 27 April, 2012.

Ken LaMance. Juvenile tried as an adult. 2012. Web. 27 April, 2012.

Kathleen Michon. When juveniles are tried in adult criminal court. 2012. Web. 27 April, 2012.


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