DOJ Shift: Juveniles Who Commit Gun Crime to Be Charged as Adults

An employee at John Jovino Co. holds a revolver on Thursday, June 26, 2008 in New York. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier in the day that Americans have a constitutional right to keep guns in their homes for self-defense - the justices' first major pronouncement on gun control in …
AP Photo/Seth Wenig

The Department of Justice is altering its approach to gun crime in a way that will allow juveniles charged with it to be tried as adults.

Adult charges will apply to juveniles who commit “serious or multiple firearm offenses.”

According to WBOC 16, the move was announced by Delaware Attorney General Matt Denn on March 27. He said the decision to prosecute juveniles as adults in matters of gun crime is part of a larger attempt “to crack down on juveniles who are a danger to the public and keep them from returning to the community to commit additional violent crimes.”

Denn added:

Part of the reason [for this shift] is that adults have told juveniles that there are no real consequences to carrying guns–and too often that has been true. We have to ensure that there are consequences, and that juveniles know about those consequences.

A 17-year-old and a 15-year-old in Delaware have already been charged as adults under the renewed procedures, and “the Attorney General has been personally reviewing” cases that would have previously gone to Family Court to see which of those need to be bumped up for adult prosecution.

Moreover, an “immediate” consequence of the DOJ shift is that “Wilmington police officers who arrest juveniles on charges that constitute Class D felonies or greater during evening or weekend hours will immediately notify the Department of Justice.” The DOJ will then make sure a prosecutor is present to “present evidence” to charge the juvenile as an adult.

Denn indicated that officers’ comments played a large role in encouraging the policy shift. He said officers bemoaned the fact that they would arrest juveniles on “serious felony charges one night,” only to see the same juveniles out on the street two nights later.

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