Victims of crimes have rights to help them through a bad experience. Suspects in crimes also have rights to protect the presumption of their innocence and other legal requirements in America. When it comes to suspects under the age of 18, there are several other rights that acknowledge the fact they cannot be fully responsible for their actions.
The governor of Virginia recently signed a new bill into law that furthers the cause of protecting underage suspects. House Bill 477 and Senate Bill 546, all passed in Richmond, raise the minimum age of suspects who may be transferred to be tried as an adult from 14 to 16.
“Every Virginian deserves access to a fair and equitable criminal justice system,” the governor said of this bill among others. “These bills combat mass incarceration, increase support for returning citizens, and ensure that those who have paid their debt to society have a meaningful second chance.”
Courts must now approve a suspect between the ages of 14 and 16 to be tried as an adult. Experts are hoping this move means that fewer children end up part of a system in which criminal activity appears to be the only option for survival.
Minor suspects and their parents always have the right to have their interests represented during questioning or in court by a lawyer. An attorney can also work towards early release, a guardian’s custody of a suspect before trial and other things that can make a child’s journey through the criminal justice system easier. No juvenile suspect should have to stand alone.