Making mistakes is part of growing up. Ideally, the hard lessons teach accountability, responsibility and the basic differences between right and wrong. These concepts are part of the driving themes in juvenile law, yet some laws seem to take the opposite approach in favor of victims’ rights1.
Charging minors as an adult for violent crimes is one high-profile example of this counter-intuitive approach. Yet, there are also calls to change the laws regarding restitution for crimes. Here in Ohio and across the country, minors are routinely ordered to pay for damaged property, medical bills and lost wages to victims. This is despite perhaps already serving time in a youth facility or juvenile prison.
Do these debts actually rehabilitate?
Ohio’s laws on juvenile restitution2 do not sound particularly harsh when read, often leaving the judge to determine the amount based on the defendant’s ability to pay.
However, critics throughout the country see an imbalance in applying them, arguing that:
- These debts are less about rehabilitation and more about punishment.
- These debts unfairly target children of families whose parents or guardians cannot afford to pay.
- These debts can pull children out of school and force them to work to pay off that debt.
- Often the person paid can easily afford the loss and can even be an insurance company whose business is covering damage or theft.
Insurmountable debts accrue for years
The fines can be the most insurmountable part of children paying their debt. Moreover, those who do not pay will often have their record left unsealed, thus making their criminal record public when it ordinarily would not be.
Putting this kind of financial burden upon those who can least afford it seems misguided and counterproductive to molding better citizens. Parents and guardians can work with a defense attorney to ensure that the amount of restitution fits the crime. The goal is not for the minor to get away with a crime but to help juveniles who made poor choices get a second chance in life by removing unnecessary legal and financial obstacles.
What can you do for your child?
Parents can protect their children by contacting a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney in Delaware who can defend their rights. At The Law Office of Brian Jones, our lawyers have years of experience with juvenile crimes. We will fight to protect your child’s future. You can reach our Delaware office by using the contact form to schedule your free consultation.