State Senate Passes Juvenile Transfer Reform Bill

transfer reform, juvenile crime, Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorneyThe spring legislative session was a fairly busy one in Springfield as lawmakers passed a number of measures that now await action by Governor Bruce Rauner. One such bill, which has been referred to as the “transfer reform bill,” is designed to grant juvenile courts additional authority in deciding whether or not to try an alleged juvenile offender as an adult. The measure hopes to increase rehabilitative efficacy and prevent more young people from entering an unbreakable cycle of crime and punishment.

Automatic Transfer Laws

In 1899, Cook County was the first jurisdiction in the country to introduce a juvenile court system. Based on the premise that adults and children were inherently different, lawmakers agreed that appropriate consequences for criminal activity should generally differ based on age and maturity. As crime in the 20th century peaked, however, a wave of “war-on-crime” efforts swept the nation, leading to new laws allowing more juveniles to be tried in adult criminal courts.

Currently in Illinois, juveniles who are under 18—and as young as 13 in more specific circumstances—and charged with certain felony offenses are automatically transferred to adult court. In most cases, alleged offenders would never set foot in juvenile court and would be taken directly into the system designed for grown adults.

Change Needed

Critics of the automatic transfer process believe that the system was essentially trapping juveniles in a world of criminal activity. The adult court, in general, focuses more on punitive sentencing, as opposed to the intended juvenile approach which is primarily based on education and rehabilitation. In addition, juveniles convicted as adults must always be automatically transferred to adult court for any subsequent offenses, which seems to exacerbate the problem.

Transfer Reform

The transfer reform bill, which cleared the Illinois Senate in late June, would limit automatic transfer to 16- and 17-olds charged with murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault, and aggravated battery with a firearm. All other alleged juvenile offenders would first appear in juvenile court for a hearing before a juvenile court judge. Upon review of the defendant’s history, mental state, and level of alleged participation in the crime, among other concerns, the judge may decide to transfer the case to adult court or keep it in the juvenile system.

Proponents point out that the measure does not prevent a juvenile from being tried as an adult for serious crimes. Instead, it places an extra level of review into the system to ensure that all factors are being considered. In doing so, the law would reduce automatic transfers and replace many with “discretionary transfers” based on the specific case and defendant. The bill now awaits Governor Bruce Rauner’s signature.

If your child has been charged with a crime, contact an experienced Rolling Meadows criminal defense attorney today. We are prepared to help your family at a difficult time and will work with you in understanding your options under the law. Call 847-253-3100 to schedule your free consultation and put our skill and knowledge to work for you.

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