Juveniles may be tried as adults for drug crimes

A measure authorizing prosecutors to charge repeat juvenile offenders as adults for drug-related crimes passed the Senate on a 26-14 vote Thursday.

House Bill 718, sponsored by Delegate Terry Kilgore, R-Gate City, would enable commonwealth’s attorneys to transfer jurisdiction of juveniles 14 or older to the circuit courts if the youth is charged with a third felony offense of distributing, selling or manufacturing an illegal substance.

“There’s a big concern in some areas of the state where kids are selling and they are getting the juvenile punishment ... and get right back out on the street,” Kilgore said.

“So this is one way that we can protect the public and the children, other children, from this type of situation.”

Liane Rozzell, executive director of Families and Allies of Virginia’s Youth, an organization that advocates on behalf of young people involved in the justice system, disagrees with the measure.

“We believe that those decisions need to be left up to the juvenile court judge who has all the information and can make a reasonable decision,” she said.

The House of Delegates had passed HB 718 on a 79-21 vote on Feb. 14. At that point, the legislation covered not only drug crimes but also gang-related crimes.

The Senate revised the bill, restricting it to drug-related offenses. As a result, the bill now must go back to the House for consideration. Virginia law currently allows authorities to charge youths 14 and older as adults for violent crimes, carjacking and robbery. In addition, juveniles convicted as adults through the circuit courts are defined as adults in subsequent criminal acts.

How They Voted
Here is how the Senate voted Thursday on “HB 718 Juveniles; trial as adults.”
Floor: 03/01/12 Senate: Passed Senate with substitute with amendments (26-Y 14-N)
YEAS – Barker, Black, Blevins, Carrico, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Miller, J.C., Newman, Norment, Northam, Obenshain, Petersen, Puckett, Reeves, Ruff, Saslaw, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner, Watkins – 26.
NAYS – Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, Y.B., Puller – 14.
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