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Juvenile offenders may benefit from proposed change in law

A controversial bill is being debated in the Colorado legislature that could change House Bill 1271, which gives district attorney's the ability to file adult charges on low-level felonies by juvenile offenders. Criminal defense attorney's support the change in the bill and feel that it will give teens that made a poor choice, more options to build a better future.

The original intent of the bill was to be able to charge teens as adults for big crimes like murders, kidnappings and violent assaults under Colorado's direct-file statute. Now these crimes would fall to the discretion of a judge as to whether the accused teen would stay in district court or be sent into the juvenile system.

Prosecutors feel that if they don't have the authority to recommend an adult sentence, it would be endangering public safety. They feel that this change would take away their ability to stop dangerous juvenile offenders by giving them longer sentences in juvenile programs.

Proponents of the change feel that the original bill to punish the most serious juvenile offenders is still intact, but that offenders that have committed a crime outside the serious parameters would have the ability to make changes in their life through a juvenile program. The intervention of a juvenile system is to rehabilitate the youth and prevent them from committing crimes in the future. They also come out of the system without a record.

Many feel that some teens make poor choices without thinking about the consequences and if all teens were charged as adults, when they got out of prison, they would still be considered felons. The juvenile system would at least give teens a chance at redeeming themselves and maybe make them think twice before doing something that might get them into trouble with the law.

Source:,"Colorado bill would strip DA's ability to charge some kids as adults," Jessica Fender, April 1, 2012

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