Age As A Criminal Defense Essay

1881 words - 8 pages

Using age as a defense should be no defense in many cases. However culpability is the key in any prosecution and if a defendant is old enough to understand right from wrong, no matter what age, then he or she is responsible for the crime. That being said this paper will examine the questions of minimum and maximum ages when it comes to culpability and why or why not. Also should there be a standard age, which is federally mandated when it comes to culpability much like the Supreme Court ruling involving the death penalty.Age of criminal responsibilityThe debate over what is the appropriate age to make children liable for their actions is highly controversial. Every time someone under the age of 18 commits a violent crime, questions are raised as to how responsible they should be for their actions? Illegal actions committed by persons under the age of 18 are considered juvenile offences. The law is the same for adults and juveniles; however, when dealing with minors the penalty for the offence is less severe. Each state has its own juvenile laws and the age of responsibility varies normally not going lower than 7 years of age and up to 17, which is the federal norm. Due to the differences in physical and intellectual growth in children within an age group, it would be considered unreasonable to set a minimum age.According to the circumstances of the offence it may be left up to the discretion of the prosecution to decide, whether or not a juvenile understands what he or she has done wrong. However, "today children eight years of age have a greater understanding of the world (certainly of technology) than the seven-year-old children in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries" (Maher, 2005, p. 496). This facts lead to believe that the age of responsibility should be lowered, since children seem to have a better understanding of what constitutes a criminal offence and the consequences from their actions. Nevertheless our Justice System must consider that under the age of 10 a child may not posses sufficient understanding to between the difference of right and wrong and assume responsibility for their actions (Calderon, 2005). Due to a child's immature brain it would be unfair to punish them as adults. In addition, a dysfunctional family environment can potentially hinder a child's social development. As a society we need to be careful not to send the wrong message to our future generation. The bottom line is that the law applies to all citizens whether young or old and that all members of this society will be subject to punishment at different levels.Minimum AgeDay after day we read about a teenager committing horrific crimes. Murders, and not just single victim murders, but mass casualty murders like Columbine or the DC Snipers where kids 15, 16, 17 years old planning down to the very end, including every possible detail and scenario. The two teenagers who shot teachers and students at Columbine had bigger plans then what was first thought. They set...

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