When a prosecutor claims to have progressive values, often what they mean is that their focus is more on rehabilitation than punishment for those accused of certain kinds of offenses. Supporting more people going through the drug courts as opposed to the criminal courts when facing addiction-related charges would be a progressive move on the part of the prosecutor.
So would giving youthful offenders an opportunity to learn from a mistake through juvenile justice. Unfortunately, despite the label of progressive, the New Orleans District Attorney Jason Williams has brought adult charges against at least six juveniles during his term in office. Why does his decision to prosecute teenagers as adults matter for those facing charges or assisting a young adult navigating the criminal justice system?
Adult charges for juvenile offenders create a lifetime of consequences
When someone who is underage and who therefore does not have a mature brain makes a criminal mistake, most people recognize that a combination of immaturity and a lack of impulse control likely contributed to their criminal choices.
Juvenile justice proceedings help protect youthful offenders in two primary ways. The first is by handing out appropriate penalties but then allowing the offender to potentially move forward in the future unhindered by an adult criminal conviction. The second is by maintaining youthful offenders in separate facilities.
If the state prosecutes a teenager as an adult, they could very well spend years of their adult life in state custody and will have a permanent criminal record. So far, DA Williams has primarily brought adult criminal charges against juvenile offenders when they face accusations of homicide, but the tough-on-crime stance often tends to trickle down into other areas eventually.
Those accused of committing a violent crime or trying to help a juvenile accused of such an offense may have reason to worry if the prosecution will take place in New Orleans.
Adult charges require a very measured approach
It is incumbent upon both youthful offenders and their family members to respond appropriately to juvenile charges, but adult charges are even more of an issue. The possibility for a lifetime criminal record and a lengthy adult punishment is a concern that no one should ignore.
Rather than counting on the prosecution to be appropriately lenient, you will instead better protect yourself or your underage loved one by assuming they will employ an aggressive approach and attempting to defend aggressively to counter their efforts. Fighting back against criminal charges is the only way to avoid serious penalties and a lifelong criminal record.