When it comes to the court’s power, youth, much more than adults, require access to competent counsel. Undoubtedly, serious violations of the law cannot go unpunished, regardless of the offender’s age, but when a child’s liberty and independence are threatened, meaningful access to legal assistance and a juvenile defense attorney’s counsel is necessary for the youth defense systems to function correctly and compassionately.
Judgments against young people might be overly harsh at times. Furthermore, it has long-term effects since a youth’s record can affect their employment, access to housing, immigration status, education, and many other areas that influence their chance of future success and financial independence. If attorneys defending the youth cooperate with the state to get young people into social services, it will most likely correct the behavior of the young offender in the short run. However, in the long run, negative consequences will not be commensurate with the benefits received. A young person with many restrictions is more likely to face various difficulties, which in some cases can lead to re-violation. In addition, without proper legal protection, a person may become disillusioned with the justice system. The past decade has evidenced the increasing need for clear, consistent juvenile statutes that are distinct from adult standards (Cunningham, 2020). Young people succumb to pressure from law enforcement agencies more easily than adults. It is more difficult for them to resist adults, regardless of whether they are guilty or wrongly accused. If the child does not have a qualified adult on their side, this can lead to a distortion of the integrity of the court and serious psychological stress, which can also affect the child’s later life.
For all these reasons, the role of attorneys defending youth is important. Youth in court face potentially severe and long-term consequences. Attorneys and public defense delivery systems should pay special attention to young people since engagement in the juvenile justice system raises the likelihood of that a kid would be convicted and imprisoned as an adult. Everyone, regardless of age, has the right to adequate protection.
Cunningham, K. A. (2020). Advances in juvenile adjudicative competence: A 10‐year update. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 38(4), 406-420.