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Age Of Majority

March 2, 2005

Yesterday's ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court outlawing the execution of people for crimes committed before the age of 18 was met with a mixed response, as you might imagine from a topic as dividing as Capital Punishment. But look closer, and there's another underlying issue that has been virtually ignored by the media, both mainstream and (from what I've seen) fringe. It's the prosecution of minors as adults.

Ever since I was old enough to understand the legal system and prosecution and juvenile law vs. adult law. It was probably my freshman year of high school; that year my friend Andrew was a bit of a shoplifter, and while I've never stolen anything from a store in my life, he did. Quite often, to hear him tell it. But he got caught and went through the rigmarole of the juvenile justice system. Eventually he matured and quit with the shoplifting, but it made me take notice of the two systems.

I had a problem with the fact that someone could be charged "as an adult", and I still do to this day. If severe juvenile crime is a problem, then the laws must be re-written to address this. I'm not talking shoplifting; I mean the big stuff. Shootings in home invasions, arsons, that sort of thing. But instead we have a system of arbitrary law where maybe you'll get charged as an adult or maybe you won't. And they call this justice?

My take is that if you're an adult, you're an adult, period. If 18 it is, then 18 it needs to be across the board for everything. Alcohol to strip clubs to cigarettes to whatever else society deems unsafe for children. But instead we have a 21 drinking age (which actually makes drinking this big deal and thus encourages binge drinking) while we charge a 15-year-old as an adult for a double homicide. It baffles my mind.

People use the child card when there's something that bothers them that they want stopped. "But what about the children?!?" can be applied to just about whatever you want if you're disparaging it and want to add fuel to the fire. Rock music lyrics. Drug legalization. Radio talk shows. Violent video games. I could go on and on, but I think you get my point.

But when it becomes convenient to prosecute the same minor that you once wanted to "protect" from cigarettes or Grand Theft Auto: Vice City or strippers, well then the game changes. Suddenly the innocent, "helpless" minor needs to be charged as an adult. He made adult decisions in committing that crime! Get the sodium pentothal and the needle ready! Isn't the hypocrisy overwhelming?

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not an opponent of the death penalty, at least not in this era of DNA testing. What I do oppose though is how so much of the population mindlessly goes along with the contradictory mindset when it comes to the line between childhood and adulthood. To me, that's the most troubling part of all.

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