It seems that whenever there is a bright line intended to protect criminal suspect’s prosecutors will try to cross it. As a society we have determined that the age of 18 is the age of adulthood. No one would try vote as a 17-year-old because they are nearly 18, or that because they happen to be particularly well informed and insightful about public policy. But when a juvenile is accused of violating a law there seems to be a rush to throw them into the adult justice system.

A New Jersey prosecutor filed a motion to try a teen-aged driver as an adult. The waiver motion would remove the case from the Superior Court Family Division and place it into the criminal court division’s docket for prosecution. If tried as an adult the teen could face up to 30 years in state prison.

The juvenile is charged with speeding and running a red light in Dover, leading to the death of a 58-year-old man. In addition to the vehicular manslaughter and aggravated manslaughter charges the teen is also facing assault charges as the accident also injured a passenger.

Since the criminal complaint and motor vehicle summons were filed in October, the juvenile has been held in a juvenile detention center. Pretrial detention is not intended to be punitive but instead to protect the health and well-being of the child, but it likely feels rather punitive to the teen. Hopefully, this juvenile who is not even old enough to vote will be given a chance at rehabilitation and an opportunity to contribute to the adult society that he has not even entered yet.

Source: The Daily Record, “Morris prosecutor wants to try 17 year old as adult in red light traffic death,” Peggy Wright, Dec. 12, 2011