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Recent armed robbery puts teens in line of adult punishment

Do you remember your teenhood? Looking back on that time as an adult, it can be startling to recall how irresponsible or recklessly you may have acted. You might not have broken the law, but it is not uncommon for all teens to have done things in their young lives that they question when they grow up.

The nature of youth creates sticky situations in the legal system. Four Harford County teens are currently fighting for their futures. They are charged with assault and armed robbery stemming from an incident that occurred early last Thursday morning. The question in this and other cases involving young suspects is this:

When should an offense committed by a child be considered and adult crime? And when should cases be handled through the juvenile system? Answering these questions is important because a young person's life is significantly affected depending on whether he is treated as an adult versus a juvenile.

The suspects in this case are ages 17 and 15. They are accused of holding up a couple of men at gunpoint in Baltimore in order to steal a cell phone. Armed robbery is handled more seriously than the average theft case; it's a felony and puts the boys in danger of losing up to 20 years of their lives in jail.

Attorneys for the young suspects have requested that their clients be allowed to stay in juvenile facilities, where they believe they will be safer. The judge has initially refused the request but has not ruled it out pending further investigation of the case and suspects. All of the suspects but one have clean arrest records, and the one suspect's record involves no violent offenses.

The judge is yet to make the final decision about whether the suspects will be charged as juveniles or adults. We will keep you posted.


The Baltimore Sun: "Three 17-year-olds charged as adults in Harford armed robbery," Bryna Zumer, Aug. 4, 2011

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