Age as a Criminal Defense

Essay by lovetofishhUniversity, Bachelor'sA, May 2008

download word file, 8 pages 4.0

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...