Arizona Expands Juvenile Court Jurisdiction to Age NineteenAs a juvenile defense attorney I believe that in theory, the underlying purpose of juvenile court is rehabilitation, not punishment. To assist in that endeavor, the juvenile courts of most states keep jurisdiction beyond an offender’s eighteenth birthday – in many states until age twenty-one. That way, if a juvenile has a brain cramp just before he or she becomes an adult, society still has plenty of time to “rehabilitate” him or her and not saddle the young offender with an adult criminal history.
For the past several decades, however, Arizona has been bizarrely unique regarding teenage offenders. Where most states focus on the offender’s age on the date of the offense, Arizona law fixated on the how old the offender was when he or she was hauled into court. This was because Arizona juvenile courts lost jurisdiction when a teenager turned eighteen. As a result, Arizona prosecutors had a nasty habit of sending many seventeen-year-old offenders to adult court because there simply was not enough time for rehabilitative measures before their eighteenth birthday.
On August 3, 2018, a key change to A.R.S. § 8-202(H) became effective. Now, when a prosecutor has a seventeen year old offender, the prosecutor has the option file a Notice of Intent to Retain Jurisdiction. Once that Notice is filed, juvenile court jurisdiction extends to the teen’s nineteenth birthday.
Since juvenile court adjudications are not the legal equivalent of an adult criminal conviction, keeping more non-violent teenagers in juvenile court will be a significant benefit to these immature offenders as their permanent record will remain free of any criminal conviction.
Currently, the law only permits a prosecutor to invoke extended juvenile jurisdiction. As a result, if your teen is a seventeen year old offender, it is critical to hire an attorney who understands juvenile law and has the ability to persuade the assigned prosecutor to keep a wayward teen in juvenile court until age nineteen. The single most important thing an attorney can do in a juvenile delinquency case is to keep your teenager out of adult court. Our juvenile defense attorneys have vast experience is all aspects of juvenile court litigation. If your young son or daughter has been arrested, please give us a call at (480) 833-2341.
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