In the state of Missouri and the city of Columbia, as in most other areas of the country, there is a division between a “juvenile” justice system and an adult justice system. This is obviously due to the fact that children are judged to lack the experience and maturity to be able to identify right from wrong in complex situations.
However, in Missouri the definition of a “juvenile” crime versus an adult crime varies depending on context. As a result the first step in defending juvenile offenses in Columbia, Missouri is to determine whether the perpetrator/client will be regarded, legally, as a juvenile or as an adult.
Context for Defending Juvenile Offenses in Missouri
The precise age that divides juvenile offenders from adults varies with the specific crime:
- Alcohol-related crimes put the dividing age at 21.
- Vehicular crimes treat drivers older than 16 as adults.
- Most other crimes consider 17 to be the dividing line.
The Court’s Discretion
The age of the accused is not the only determinative factor, however. The court can choose to prosecute a child as an adult under certain circumstances:
- If the crime is serious, such as rape or murder.
- If the child is a repeat offender in serious crimes.
Often the first step in defending juvenile offenses in Missouri is to ensure that the court does not re-classify the accused as an adult, where the penalties are much more severe and where a conviction will remain in the public records, as opposed to the sealed records of juvenile court.