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Brain development doesn't end with adulthood

When a child is charged as an adult, the court is essentially saying that the child should have known as much about his or her actions as an adult, and should therefore bear equal responsibility. People sometimes worry that juvenile courts won't give a strict sentence to someone who committed a serious crime, so charging a teen as an adult is seen as one way to avoid the issue.

However, there are many potential problems with this system. First and foremost, studies have found that teens don't know as much about their actions and the consequences as adults. Their brains are not yet fully developed and are still wiring themselves. Until this process is complete, they don't have fully adult brains -- regardless of their physical size, education level, the type of crime committed, or anything else. They simply haven't reached that stage in development.

Thinks of it this way: You understand that a toddler doesn't fully comprehend his or her actions. The child still has far too much to learn and brain development is easy to watch as the months and years go by. Though people often feel like teens have stopped developing, recent research has shown that this just isn't the case. In fact, brain development can continue even past the age of 18 -- when someone is a legal adult -- and into that person's 20s.

As more is learned about the brain, its development, and the role that plays in criminal activity, it's very important for those who are in danger of being charged as adults to fully understand their legal defense options.

Source: WUWM, "Essay: We Shouldn't Charge Children as Adults," Paul Heinz, accessed March 23, 2017

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