Prosecutor to Treat Teens Charged in Violent Crimes As Adults
GOLDEN, Colo. (AP) _ Prosecutors in two counties will begin recommending that most juveniles arrested in violent crimes be tried in adult court under a new policy, the district attorney has announced.
″A criminal is a criminal is a criminal″ regardless of age, said District Attorney Don Mielke, who assumed office last month and is responsible for Gilpin and Jefferson counties.
Prosecutors will request transfers to adult court in all violent crimes and in almost all cases involving drug sales, he said Wednesday.
The trend to violence among juvenile offenders has become a national concern that requires a response, Mielke said.
″Victims don’t care about age,″ he said. ″The fact that you’re 17 years, 11 months and 29 days old doesn’t make you any different from a kid who’s 18.″
Mielke said a 14-year-old boy will be tried as an adult on a charge of first-degree murder in a stabbing death of a 19-year-old last week.
Under Colorado law, people younger than 18 fall under the Juvenile Code and usually face a maximum of two years incarceration regardless of the crime.
The law states that prosecutors can ask a judge to transfer a case to adult court if the defendant is at least 14. In serious crimes, such as murder, prosecutors can file charges in adult court without going through the transfer process.
Juvenile crime in Jefferson County climbed to 1,100 cases last year from 800 cases in 1985, Mielke said, but he could not provide a breakdown on how many of those cases involved drugs or violent crime.
Jefferson County, a large suburban county west of Denver, has a population of 433,000; Gilpin is a small mountain county northwest of Denver and has a population of 2,800.
Jim Joy, head of the American Civil Liberties Union office at Denver, said the state’s Juvenile Code was written to protect the diminished capacity of young people to make decisions regarding their lives.
The new policy, he said, could create difficulties by incarcerating juveniles in adult prisons.