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October 23, 2006

Should juves get a sentencing break?

This article from the Richmond Times Dispatch, entitled "Many youths get leniency from judges," reports on recent findings by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission that juvenile offenders seem to be getting more breaks at sentencing. Here is a snippet from the article:

A decade after legislators got tough on juvenile offenders by allowing more of them to be tried as adults, records suggest those juveniles are shown more leniency than adults. That has some experts pleased and others concerned. Both sides agree more study is needed.

[A] recent survey of sentencing records by the Virginia Criminal Sentencing Commission indicates circuit court judges are being relatively lenient with young offenders....  In the five years ending June 30, 2005, circuit judges issued juveniles lighter sentences than called for by the guidelines 36 percent of the time, compared with just 11 percent for all criminals.... 

A notable finding was that judges were most likely to sentence juveniles below sentencing guidelines in cases involving rape and other serious sex crimes. Judges sentenced below the guidelines in 58 percent of those cases even though two-thirds of the victims were under 13.  Judges also appeared to be lenient when sentencing for burglary and robbery, going below the guidelines 48 percent and 45 percent of the time, respectively.

[D]irector of the sentencing commission, Richard Kern, said ... noted that age is an important factor in predicting the future danger a young criminal poses — generally the younger the offender, the more trouble they will be later.  Showing leniency because of an offender's youth runs counter to what criminologists might recommend, Kern said.

October 23, 2006 at 07:18 AM | Permalink


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A front page news story from last year in my area involved a girl who performed oral sex on the high school hockey team. She was 15, and the boys were charged with rape. If anybody does a survey, the sentence of probation with a year's worth of community service for the crime of rape will doubtless make the system look lenient. The statutory maximum is life in prison and the advisory guideline sentence is somewhere around seven to eight years.

(One of the boys was 15, so she was also guilty of rape. The prosecutor compromised by not charging her or the other 15 year old. I read about a Detroit prosecutor who did the opposite, charging two middle school students with raping each other.)

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