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Not enough Colorado kids getting the criminal defense they need

When a person's child gets into trouble serious enough that it involves the authorities, it can be a parent's worst nightmare. They want the trouble to end. They want to put the matter behind them and their children in order to be able to better sleep at night.

That fix-it-quick instinct, however, might not be in the best interests of kids who are charged with juvenile crimes in Colorado. Unfortunately, it isn't just families' tendencies to seek a swift conclusion that is working against children's futures. A report suggests that lawyers who specialize in juvenile cases are lacking in parts of Colorado.

Particularly for kids whose families have little money to afford a criminal defense lawyer and for kids in rural Colorado areas, it is likely that they will agree to plea deals in their juvenile cases. Doing so saves time and money. Those savings could very well be coming at the cost of a better legal outcome for a child and his future.

To try to ensure that more kids actually get a chance at the best outcome of their juvenile crime cases, state lawmakers created a committee that will evaluate and address the specific juvenile justice issue. Research indicates that as many as 75 percent of Colorado's juvenile cases are settled before the kids have even worked with a criminal defense attorney. The goal of the committee is to understand why that is and to increase access to lawyers who have experience in juvenile cases.

We will post an update when there is a development in this legislative matter.

Source: The Associated Press, "Legal aid for youths an issue for Colo. lawmakers," Ivan Moreno, July 30, 2013

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