From the time a child is born, parents embark on a journey to help their children learn as their bodies and brains develop over the years. Children’s brains in particular need decades to fully develop. Despite this, the juvenile court in Washington currently has jurisdiction over minors between the ages of 8 and 17 — ages that are arguably too low on either end.
What age is too young?
Current juvenile court jurisdiction does cover children as young as eight. However, kids this young do not necessarily face legal consequences automatically. To try children aged 8 to 12, prosecutors have to first prove that they:
- Were mature enough to understand the nature of a crime
- Knew their actions were wrong
- Tried to cover up what they did
The Senate recently voted to pass a bill that would raise the minimum age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 13. If passed, some 12 year olds could still be tried under certain circumstances. The bill specifically cites trying children this young if they are accused of first degree murder, second degree murder or were able to understand the consequences of their actions.
While raising the minimum age of Washington’s juvenile court jurisdiction to 13 would certainly protect younger children, it still overlooks a significant issue — children’s brains are not yet fully developed at 13, either. Parents of children who have been arrested and charged while still in their formative years are generally eager to minimize the legal consequences. This can be a scary process though, so it is often helpful to speak with an attorney who is well versed in juvenile law.