Television news coverage showing teens getting arrested often focuses on violent incidents like robberies or sexual assault, heightening the public’s fears about juvenile crime. Studies, though, indicate that most juvenile offenses are actually non-violent, which is one reason why Louisiana has started taking a different approach to how youthful offenders are treated in the state’s justice system.
Recognizing that the bulk of juvenile crimes are not violent, lawmakers in Louisiana recently enacted the Raise the Age law, which puts the focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment. Under Raise the Age, a 17-year old arrested for a non-violent crime is taken by law enforcement to the local juvenile detention center for booking, instead of the adult jail.
The law is only a few years old, and observers are carefully watching to see how successfully law enforcement, the juvenile detention system, and the courts enforce the law — and whether it will become a more effective way to deal with non-violent crimes committed by juveniles. Despite the law’s passage, for parents of minors arrested for serious offenses, this is still going to be a very stressful time.
What Does Louisiana’s Raise the Age Law Set Out to Do?
Louisiana has been looking to overhaul its juvenile justice system for more than a decade now, in part because of the state’s unwanted reputation for brutal treatment of youth while being held in state custody. New laws aim to significantly reduce the number of juveniles being locked up while providing a more therapeutic and rehabilitative environment for those in custody.
To move them along, the state began implementing Raise the Age, which phases 17-year-olds out of the adult criminal justice system. The state’s new model of justice focuses on treatment instead of punishment, with teens now being placed in dorm-like housing rather than jail cells. Supporters of this change hope that this system will do a better job of rehabilitating youth, although concerns have been raised about whether the juvenile justice system remains woefully underfunded.
It’s not clear yet if the arrival of 17-year-olds into the youth system will seriously strain the capacity at local juvenile detention centers, which hold youth pretrial, as well as the state-run post-adjudication juvenile facilities. Another challenge is that many of Louisiana’s parishes, particularly in rural areas, don’t have even a single juvenile detention center and rely on open beds at neighboring juvenile facilities following arrests.
Still, the state hopes to start a new chapter in how it deals with non-violent juvenile crimes.
What Are the Most Common Juvenile Crimes?
Although violent crimes committed by juveniles are hardly uncommon, studies indicate that teens most often get in trouble for non-violent offenses. One of the most common juvenile crimes is shoplifting often inexpensive items. Another is making illegal purchases, particularly alcohol and cigarettes, after finding older people to buy them for them or using fake IDs.
Teens are also arrested for alcohol crimes, such as drunk and disorderly conduct or underage DUI. Assault is another common charge since teens get into fights. That doesn’t always include physical violence, but can involve emotional abuse, bullying or taunting.
Teens are also arrested for status offenses, or crimes related to their age, such as violating truancy laws if they miss too many days of school or curfew laws if they sneak out at night. Vandalism is another common charge, which can include spraying graffiti on buildings.
In fact, many juvenile crimes are considered misdemeanors, but even if they do commit violent crimes that are felony offenses, the juvenile justice system was designed to rehabilitate youthful offenses and find alternative punishments to incarceration.
How Is Louisiana Treating Juvenile Crimes?
Still, fear of juvenile crimes has put pressure on lawmakers to respond. It’s why Orleans Parish, which includes the city of New Orleans, adopted a new policy where any juvenile who gets arrested and has an open court case won’t be released from custody until they see a judge. The goal is to increase public safety and prevent young repeat offenders from committing the same crimes. It also allows judges to ascertain on a case-by-case basis if the juvenile poses a continued risk to the community.
If your child has been arrested and is being charged with a juvenile offense, it’s important to find the services of an experienced criminal defense lawyer to handle the case. If your child’s future is riding on the outcome of their case, an experienced attorney can help guide you and your child through the legal process and will aggressively defend your child’s freedom and future.
Secure Proven Legal Representation for Your Juvenile Case
In Louisiana, a top source for criminal defense attorneys is the John D. & Eric G. Johnson Law Firm. We have more than 25 years of experience representing ordinary citizens like you and want to help you get your life back on the right track — and that includes juveniles facing their first arrest. It’s our mission to give you the most personalized experience possible and help you have your voice heard.
Eric Johnson is respected throughout Louisiana and is known for providing solid representation that wins cases. He is a member of the Louisiana Bar Association and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, with a successful track record of helping clients facing misdemeanor, felony, and even federal charges.
To schedule a free consultation regarding your case, call our office at 318-377-1555 or contact us online today. We’re here to represent you!