Childhood is considered a time for learning and growing. Until one reaches the age of majority, minors are not considered responsible for caring for themselves. Furthermore, in the eyes of the law, they are not deemed responsible for crimes in the same way adults are.
While juvenile crimes and the penalties they carry differ from those of adult crimes, this does not negate the fact that some child offenders are tried for adult crimes. Indiana continues to struggle with how best to address crimes committed by juveniles.
Based on recent reports, a new bill is moving through the Indiana General Assembly. The Indiana Senate Bill 464 is aimed to fix what they referred to as a jurisdictional black hole in juvenile cases that involves a child offender when the delinquent act was not reported until after they turned 21 years of age.
This bill specifies that the juvenile court lack jurisdiction when the accused was between 12 and 18 years old when they committed the crime but was 21 years old or older when the crime was reported. This bill would allow adult criminal courts to have jurisdiction over the case.
As the laws currently stand, there are issues for victims as well as jurisdictional problems. For example, a prosecutor recently faced an issue when they attempted to file a case with juvenile court but was dismissed because it lacked jurisdiction. As such, the prosecutor tried to file the same case in adult court; however, the same jurisdictional issue persisted. Thus, there was no option to file the case in any court.
Often, victims of child offenders have no recourses when enough time passes from the date of the crime and the date of reporting. Such ramifications are often due to lack of jurisdiction in both the juvenile and adult courts.
If this bill passes, this could change how these matters are handled. Furthermore, it could alter the penalties faced if convicted. Thus, those facing criminal allegations stemming from a juvenile offense should gain a better understanding of their situation, rights and legal options when it comes to asserting a defense.