Kentucky Senate Votes to Expand Adult Trials for Teens in Gun-Related Felony Charges

Kentucky Senate Votes to Expand Adult Trials for Teens in Gun-Related Felony Charges


Under legislation approved by the state Senate on Wednesday, more juveniles in Kentucky who are accused of felonies involving firearms will be moved to adult courts to stand trial.

The bill moved to the House after passing the Senate on a vote of 25 to 9. Sen. Bill 20 is a component of a larger effort to increase the severity of sentences for several offenses in the GOP-dominated legislature.

By the measure, minors accused of major felonies and those who utilized a gun in the alleged commission of the offense would be moved to circuit court and tried as adults. It would cover juveniles aged 15 and older, as well as crimes like assault and robbery.

The primary supporter of the bill, Republican Sen. Matthew Deneen, stated that it would make sure that young offenders who commit gun-related offenses “the time fits the crime.”

Kentucky Senate Votes to Expand Adult Trials for Teens in Gun-Related Felony Charges (1)
Deneen declared, “By holding these perpetrators accountable, we owe the victims of these gun-related felonies justice.” “The pursuit of happiness, life, and liberty are in jeopardy due to gun-related crimes.”

A criminal justice policy that was implemented in Kentucky three years ago would be reversed by the proposal.

At that time, lawmakers discontinued the juvenile court’s automatic transfer of minors to the circuit court under certain circumstances. Judges must now convene a hearing to consider the facts and decide whether to transfer a case. Teens may be subject to adult punishments, including jail time, if they appear in circuit court. The proposed law would keep teenagers convicted in circuit court until they reach 18 in a juvenile institution.

There is no evidence, according to Republican Sen. Whitney Westerfield, who is against the new bill, that judges are often declining to refer cases involving violent charges to circuit courts.

“There is absolutely no proof that this is occurring, as it isn’t,” he declared.

Reforms pertaining to juvenile justice have recently seen Westerfield at the forefront.

According to him, the law would eliminate a judge’s discretion in selecting the court to hear a case. Numerous elements are taken into account, such as the young person’s past criminal history, the possibility of rehabilitation, the presence of a severe intellectual handicap in the youngster, and any indications of gang involvement.

Prosecutors may now return these cases to juvenile court under the modified statute. After a case is transferred to circuit court, Westerfield said, it is “exceedingly rare” for it to return to juvenile court.

Along with intervention and education initiatives that help reduce young crime, opponents suggested the emphasis should be on the underlying causes of juvenile criminality, such as poverty and gang recruiting.

In response, Sen. John Schickel, a Republican, said that the legislation is a reasonable response to a growing public outcry over the state’s juvenile justice regulations.

He declared, “The public no longer believes that justice is being served with these serious juvenile crimes.”

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