Questioning a Juvenile's Capacity for Criminal Liability in Street Gangs Post-J.D.B. v. North Carolina
32 Child. Legal Rts. J. 1 (2012)
21 Pages Posted: 19 Feb 2013 Last revised: 1 May 2013
Date Written: 2012
This article explores how the recent groundswell of acceptance of adolescent neuroscience has manifested in United States Supreme Court cases involving juveniles, and the resultant implications for children accused of gang-related crimes and enhancements. Juvenile gang convictions proliferate, but the foundation of such prosecutions is precariously – and improperly – based. Though varied in title, predicate offenses, and penalties, most state gang legislation contains language requiring offenders to have at least a tacit understanding, or knowledge, that the group’s common purpose is to commit crimes to benefit the gang. However, this mens rea required for anti-gang statutes, combined with the inability to know, without closer analysis, whether juveniles in fact possess such mens rea, creates a conundrum: children make up a significant proportion of gang membership, but yet lack the capacity to be prosecuted under current anti-gang legislation, especially given the new parameters set forth by the United States Supreme Court.
Keywords: juvenile, capacity, gang, street gang, criminal liability, STEP Act, adolescent neuroscience, J.D.B. v. North Carolina, Miller v. Alabama, children, juvenile delinquent
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