States have been increasingly charging teens as adults in response to public pressure for tougher laws. Now, however, science appears to question the basis for such laws — showing that the teenage brain is still forming in substantial ways.
For an article on these studies, click here
The common law of torts has always recognized that minors cannot be subject to the same standards as adults in terms of negligence. When a defendant is below the age of majority, the courts will apply a standard of a child of like age, maturity, development, and intelligence. This is different from the objective reasonable person standard for adults. Now it appears that the common law may have been right along. In criminal law where intent is so key, the development of the brain is critical to culpability in most crimes. The thoughtlessness and carelessness of the stereotypical teenager may reflect more than just bad behavior. Theses studies now appear consistent on the point. The question is whether we can legitimately ignore such science in meting out punishment.
For the full article on state law changes, click here