A child is not considered capable of committing a crime, as he does not possess the mental capacity to fully understand his actions. However, this is less true when the child is closer to the age of majority (i.e. 18 years of age), such as when a teenager engages in teen violence.
Traditionally, a child must have the mental capacity to be charged of a crime. He must have the know what he is doing and intended to do so in order to be found guilty of the crime. Strictly speaking, any child younger than seven does not have the mental capacity to commit a crime, and thus, cannot be charged. For children between seven and fourteen, their mental capacity is arguable. The judge will weigh the child’s age, experience, and understanding prior to prosecuting him.
If the judge decides to prosecute a child under 14 years of age, that child may assert the infancy defense. The child will argue that he lacks capacity to commit the crime. As such, the prosecution must prove that the child understood and appreciated the wrongfulness of his act. The court will also weigh whether there was preparation and/ or concealment of the act.
Instead of holding children to adult standards of punishments, courts have been using the juvenile justice system as a form of rehabilitation. Nonetheless, the juvenile court system will punish children as a last resort or for violent crimes.
Consulting a Lawyer
If your child has been accused of committing a crime, you should consult a criminal defense lawyer. Sometimes, a child close to the age of majority will be held to possess the mental capacity and be charged as an adult. A lawyer will help free your child’s name, and ensure that he is charged as a child.