While juveniles may face adult charges in Arizona, dependent on age and the crime itself, there is a reason that juveniles, in general, are less criminally culpable. Some of the crimes that juveniles commit are the same as adults. This is not to say that juveniles have the same minds as adults, however. According to an ABA expert panel, adolescent brains are less developed.

Teenagers lack a developed prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for contemplating risks and consequences, for thinking before you act, for social intelligence and for curbing impulse. An adolescent is impulsive, less empathetic and more prone to peer pressure.

To judge a juvenile’s behavior based on the development of an adult brain is unfair. In adolescence, the social-emotional system develops rapidly. Teens are more likely to seek sensations, to have a more reactive emotional response and to desire rewards. With this development in full swing, teenagers lack the development in the cognitive control system. This means that they do not have the mature brain to provide them with the ability to put the brakes on their actions.

A trend in juveniles is that over time, their impulsivity declines, they are less susceptible to peer pressure and they spend more time problem-solving. A juvenile may not have the impulse control that would stop an adult from shoplifting or the mature mindset to ignore dangerous peer pressure. When put into a highly emotional situation, teenagers do not have the same control over their reactions. This can lead to criminal offenses that would not otherwise happen if they had been older.

This information is for educational purposes only. It is not meant to be interpreted as legal advice.