Most kids love Christmas and can’t wait to open their Christmas presents. Sometimes the anticipation is so high that a kid searches high and low to see where their presents are hidden. What happens if a kid steals a present which he or she knows was bought for them? It might seem an unlikely scenario, but it does happen occasionally. One well known case was the 12 year old South Carolina boy, Brandon Jones, who thought he could get away with stealing a Nintendo Gameboy that had been bought for him and was kept at his great grandmother’s place until Christmas. Brandon was so fired up, he went ahead and found the present and took it home and hid it. He was caught unwrapping it, even when he had told his mom that he hadn’t stolen it.
Brandon’s mom was so annoyed she called the cops and told them to arrest her son. He was led away in handcuffs and charged with larceny. Apparently, Brandon had been quite a nuisance for most of his short life. He suffered from attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) and had been involved in bouts of stealing before at school and had even hit a police officer.
In this case, the boy’s mother’s intention was to try and frighten her son into behaving better. In fact, she picked her son up from the police station after going to church later the same day and it’s not evident exactly what happened after that, although the offense was referred to the DJJ for a decision. That incident was 13 years ago, which would make Brandon now a 25 year old young man. Is he still stealing things or has his lesson been learned?
Youth crime and the youth justice system in Alaska
What would happen to a 12 year old in Alaska if he was accused of stealing something? Minors (i.e. anyone under 18) are treated differently from adults. It is recognized that often young people do things that may be due to their upbringing or because of their lack of maturity. Young Brandon, for example, was born when his mom was only 15 and she raised him all by herself, not an easy task, and which may have contributed to her son’s delinquency. It is hoped that a different system of justice for young offenders might help to deter them from making more serious mistakes when older.
If Brandon had been accused of stealing a Nintendo game in Anchorage, it might have been considered theft in the third degree, a Class A misdemeanor (for an item valued at between $50 and $500) if he was convicted as an adult. This is a serious charge and adults could face a penalty of up to a year in a county jail and a $10,000 fine.
That wouldn’t have happened with our theoretical Alaskan Brandon. If he had been caught stealing the game from a store, he would have been dealt with by the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). If it was the first time that anything like this had happened, then the DJJ may have decided to deal with it informally. Only if there had been a history of theft, or other alleged offenses, or the young person was older, would more formal proceedings have been sought, or the person expected to attend a Youth Court.
A Youth Court is a little different from an adult court as there are young people selected to act as judges who are also youths. A youth lawyer is also provided to represent the accused, although an adult lawyer would also be in attendance. Youth Court will only be considered if the young person accused of the offense actually admits to it and in that case, the sole purpose of the court is to decide what the penalties are. For an offense like Brandon’s (stealing from his great grand mother), it’s unlikely that he would ever get to Youth Court, but this might be the eventuality if he had stolen the game from a store and it wasn’t the first time.
The main aim of the juvenile justice system is to seek rehabilitation, not punishment. In the case of a youth stealing something and admitting to it, the penalties might involve community service and probation as well as other actions.
Young people may be charged with an offense that they didn’t do, just like adults. Everyone is entitled to be defended against a charge against them, whatever their age. It is important for minors who have wrongly been accused of a crime to be represented by a sensitive and experienced criminal defense attorney.
In Anchorage, contact dedicated criminal defense attorney, Dattan Scott Dattan. You can reach him at his office at 907-276-8008.