A firm consensus has certainly grown over the years in Arkansas and nationally that juvenile criminal offenders are, as a group, flatly differentiated in many respects from older offenders.

At the outset, of course, they are collectively defined by an age-based immaturity that in many instances leads to unfortunate outcomes flowing from a lack of judgment.

In other words, many teens think like, well, teens. In many criminal cases, the consequences they face from an ill-considered action are directly attributed to their failure to adequately connect future adverse possibilities to snap judgments made in the present.

An experienced and client-empathetic criminal defense attorney well versed in juvenile crime matters is sensitive to the special considerations at work in many juvenile offender cases. Such an attorney intimately knows the juvenile justice system — the judges, prosecutors, alternatives to a jail sentence that might be available in a given case and so on.

In fact, those options are often many and diverse, based on society’s recognition that many youthful offenders can overcome a lapse in judgment through purposeful intervention and programs that address things like anger, drug abuse and truancy.

Many youth-reclamation programs operate across the country, and a proven criminal defense attorney commanding experience working with youthful offenders knows what they are, where they are located and how to get a young person enrolled if at all possible.

One such program, called Reclaiming Futures, was recently profiled in a media piece for its proven effectiveness in helping many teen offenders with drug and other problems. That program is active in 18 states, including several states surrounding Arkansas.

Similar programs operate within Arkansas. An experienced juvenile crime lawyer can provide information concerning options beyond juvenile detention that may be available to a young offender in a given case.

Source: Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, “OP-ED: Reducing youth crime by treating substance abuse,” John Lash, Jan. 3, 2014