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Trying Children As Adults

(Credit: Thinkstock)

(Credit: Thinkstock)

feldman_amy Amy Feldman
Amy E. Feldman is a business commentator and legal business...
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By Amy E. Feldman

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - How young can a child be held legally liable for his actions?

A 10-year-old boy pleaded guilty to conspiracy and his 11-year-old co-conspirator was found guilty of attempted murder after their plot to kill a 5th grade classmate, whom they described as “annoying” was uncovered. The 11-year-old had planned to stab the girl, and had convinced the 10-year-old to point the gun at anyone who tried to intervene.

This raises not only the question “what is this world coming to” but also the question: How young is too young under the law to face legal penalties?

In general, a child must be able to form the intent to do harm and to understand the consequences of his actions in order to be convicted of a crime.

In the past, it was generally accepted that children under the age of 7 could never understand the consequences of their actions, and children between the ages of 7 and 14 could argue that they didn’t have the capacity to understand the consequences so prosecutors have to prove they understood what they were doing was wrong.

Now, for the most part, juvenile courts hear cases against kids so the traditional age barriers don’t apply, but in some cases of serious crimes, children as young as ten have been tried as adults. So it’s up to adults to closely supervise children so they don’t have the chance to find their way into serious crimes.