It seems it is becoming more common for teenagers who get in trouble with the law to be charged as adults, and we have previously written about several such cases here in Wisconsin. Behaviors that used to be viewed as the mistakes of youth are now being treated more severely by law enforcement.
This could also be behind an increase in young people being arrested and charged with juvenile crimes in recent decades. According to a recent study published in the journal Pediatrics, up to 41 percent of young Americans have been arrested at least once by the age of 23 for an offense other than a small traffic violation.
The study's authors report that 16 to 27 percent of the study participants were arrested before or by age 18.
Researchers used a national survey to track approximately 7,000 youth between the years 1997 and 2008. The somewhat wide range in the study's findings was due to the fact that not all participants stayed involved in the study for the entire 11-year period. Nonetheless, youth arrest rates appear to have increased significantly since this topic was last studied by scientists in 1965.
Is this evidence that America's youth has somehow lost its way, or does it reflect a change in our law enforcement culture? The study did not specify the types of crimes that led to these arrests, but it is hard to imagine that all were related to violent offenses.
A substantial portion could have been related to things like drug possession, shoplifting or even fights that were charged as assault.
While an arrest during youth may be more common than in the past, it is no less stigmatized by society. That's why any young person in Wisconsin who has been arrested and charged with a crime should speak with a qualified criminal defense attorney.
Commenting on the study, a professor at Harvard Medical School said: "There are social, economic, educational and family risks associated with arrests. And we all have to be worried about that."
Source: ABC News, "Study: Significant Number of Young Americans Get Arrested," Carrie Gann, Dec. 19, 2011