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Defending Juveniles Accused of Sex Offenses

Minors Who Commit Sex Offenses are Different from Adult Offenders

The perception that juveniles who commit sex offenders are just like adults is plain wrong. In fact, juvenile sex offenders are similar to other juvenile delinquents and are quite different from adult sex offenders. Juveniles perceive risks differently than adults, and are less able to foresee probable consequences of their behavior. Juveniles are more influenced by their peers than adults. Juveniles are more impulsive. Solo offenders are more impulsive than group offenders. There is a high incidence of ADHD among juvenile sex offenders that must be considered when representing these young people. At the Meryhew Law Group our lawyers understand these differences and are trained to explain and understand juvenile behavior in advocating for our clients.

Juvenile Brain Development Must be Considered

Physiologically, there are big differences between juvenile brains and the fully developed adult brain. The frontal lobe is the last area of the brain to develop, and is not complete until people are in their mid-20s. This is the part of the brain involved with executive functioning: Planning, judgment, initiating and stopping actions, anticipating outcomes and consequences, inhibiting and suppressing inappropriate social behavior. Likewise, the Limbic System has not reached full capacity in adolescence. This deals with processing and managing emotion and motivations. When fully developed, the Limbic System keeps people from “overheating” and helps maintain control over behavior. Explaining and understanding the effects of this underdevelopment of the brain is central to the way our attorneys approach these cases.

The effects of this underdevelopment on juvenile behavior can be profound. As a result of these deficits, juveniles do not read emotions in others as well as adults. The juvenile’s brain uses more of the emotion areas and less of the frontal lobe for executive functioning. The assumptions behind many of the policies adopted in the 1990s that involve harsh penalties for juvenile sex offenders are being increasingly called into question as the research on this population reveals a far different reality. We now know that juveniles who engage in sexual misconduct are very different from adult offenders due to the impact of juvenile brain development and impulsivity in sexual offending by juveniles. These behaviors resolve as juveniles mature, leading to very low re-offense rates for juvenile sex offenders. We also know now that treatment interventions are effective in further reducing juvenile sex offender re-offense rates.

At the Meryhew Law Group our attorneys are leaders in advocating for juveniles accused of sex offenses. Brad Meryhew has spoken on this topic at local and National conferences and has published on this topic. Representing Juveniles Charged with Sex Offenses; Leading Lawyers on Examining Recent Trends in Juvenile Law and Building a Successful Defense, available at (Amazon.com).

While there is a widespread belief among the public that juvenile sex offending is at an epidemic and all-time high, the fact is that rates of juvenile sex offending overall have been generally stable in recent years. However, there was a time when this was a growing problem. From the late 1980s through the mid 1990s, there was a significant increase in juveniles committing violent offenses, including sexual violence. As a result, the sanctions for juveniles who commit sex crimes were intensified along with reforms in adult sex offender management, including longer sentences, sex offender registration, and community notification statutes. At the time those policies were adopted, policy makers were making assumptions about high re-offense rates and poor treatment results by juveniles that have not proven true over time, yet those harsh and often counterproductive sentencing schemes remain in place. The challenge for the defense attorney in this environment is to advocate for a result for their client based in research and the proven effectiveness of treatment, rather than the harsh sanctions and misguided assumptions of policymakers from a different era.

If your child or a child you care about has been accused of sexual misconduct, our attorneys have the experience and the expertise to advocate for that child effectively and persuasively. Contact the attorneys at the Meryhew Law Group today for a free initial consultation.

Client Reviews
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Just so you all know this man is a GOD sent and has my complete blessing and gratitude. [Brad] is one of the most honest and forthright human beings that I have ever met...and he saved my life. Daniel