If it seems as though teenagers struggle to make good decisions, it is not because they are collectively choosing to do so. At this age, their brains are simply not fully developed yet. Indeed, a lack of impulse control may even seem like a defining characteristic of teens. Despite this, many judges in Washington sentence juvenile offenders as if they are fully capable of acting like adults.

The U.S. Supreme Court is considering the constitutional limits of sentencing minors who have been convicted of murder. Specifically, whether judges can sentence these juveniles to life in prison with no opportunity for parole. The current case involves an out-of-state man who was 15 when convicted of his grandfather’s murder.

The country’s highest court has already struck down the constitutionality of sentencing juvenile offenders to the death penalty. It has also severely limited when judges may sentence a minor to life with no parole. Currently, only minors who have been convicted of murder and who are considered incorrigible, with no hope for rehabilitation. In the Supreme Court case involving the man convicted of murder during his teens, even his own grandmother testified on his behalf, asserting that he was not incorrigible and should be given another chance.

Protecting one’s child while moving through Washington’s juvenile justice system can feel like a monumental task. Most parents are simply not familiar with how the law works regarding juvenile offenders. When a child’s future is on the line, it is better to not leave things up to chance. Instead, parents should consider whether a knowledgeable attorney could provide necessary guidance through this difficult period of time.