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East Hartford, CT criminal defense attorney juvenile crime

Nearly every jurisdiction in the United States has a special court system for minors designed to rehabilitate them rather than punishing them. This is based on the knowledge that juveniles have a greater capacity for change than adults, which is why Connecticut’s Juvenile Transfer Act was created. The act was intended to close courtrooms and seal the records of juveniles charged with the most serious felonies and whose cases were transferred to adult court. This act went into effect in October 2019, but a federal judge recently ruled that the Juvenile Transfer Act violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Connecticut Constitution.

Federal Judge Orders Records to Be Unsealed

A federal judge in Hartford, CT recently ordered the Connecticut judiciary to open courtrooms and unseal court records related to cases involving juveniles charged with the most serious felonies that were transferred from juvenile to adult court. Under the state’s Juvenile Transfer Act, cases involving minors who commit the most serious felonies, such as murder or sexual assault, which are transferred to adult court are closed to the public, and records are sealed, unless a conviction is reached. The judge ordered all juvenile cases transferred to adult court going forward must be open to the public and all case records, past and future, must be unsealed.

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East Hartford criminal defense lawyer for juvenile chargesThe juvenile justice system has always functioned differently than the adult criminal justice system -- and for good reason. Since the creation of the first juvenile justice court in Illinois at the end of the 19th century, it has been known that youth who come into contact with the criminal justice system have different needs than adults who find themselves in trouble. All states have a separate criminal justice system for juveniles, though in recent years, an increased focus has been placed on reducing the number of juveniles who come into contact with the criminal justice system. In an effort to follow suit, Connecticut recently passed a law to make certain juvenile trials are more private.

Reduced Charges Can Be Transferred Back to Juvenile Court

The new law, Public Act 19-187, changes quite a few things concerning the juvenile justice system. Existing laws state that the juvenile court is required to automatically transfer a case involving a child who is at least 15 years old to adult court if the case involves murder, a Class A felony or certain Class B felonies. If a juvenile is charged with any other type of felony, it is up to the court’s discretion to transfer the case or not.

The Act allows a case that was transferred to adult court to be transferred back to juvenile court if the charges were reduced to charges that would have been discretionary. Before the transfer can take place, however, it must be proven that the transfer was done for a good reason, and the transfer must be completed before the defendant pleads guilty.

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