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Should childhood crimes be punished as felonies in adulthood?

The facts of an interesting out-of-state criminal case may leave New Jersey residents wondering just how long a childhood crime can be punishable as the juvenile suspect ages into adulthood.

At the age of 13, a Texas boy allegedly set fire to another juvenile who survived the attack. Now 28, the accused might be facing murder charges as the alleged victim died in 2011 from ailments apparently caused by his burns. Changes in the state's laws regarding how old a child must be to be tried in adult court occurred in the time between the alleged burning of the victim and the victim's later death.

The accused man's lawyer has argued that when the alleged crime happened his client was under the age formerly prescribed as the minimum age for trying a child in adult court for capital crimes. The family of the alleged victim has suggested progress is being made toward bringing justice to the alleged victim's suffering and death.

This case sheds some interesting light on the circumstances that can occur when a juvenile crime morphs into a potentially adult felony. Felonies here in New Jersey and all across the country are punishable with heavier jail sentences and other penalties that are not available in juvenile court, making the outcomes for such a transitory crime highly divergent depending upon where the case resides.

The suspect in this story has been dealing with these allegations for around sixteen years and now has to deal with a potential murder charge based on something he was accused of doing when he was barely into his teenage years. Anyone who has questions about the repercussions of juvenile crimes and their potential for causing adult felony charges can choose to work with a criminal defense attorney and proactively manage any pending legal issues.

Source: New Jersey Herald, "Judge weighing merits of trial for childhood crime," Juan A. Lozano, March 5, 2014