When does a boy become a man in the eyes of the law? In one Russian courtroom, it apparently depends at least partially on the size of your genitals.
A boy suspected of theft, whose family claims is only 13 years old, is set to be tried as an adult after an examination of his teeth and his genitals led doctors to believe he was actually between 16 and 17, a Russian newspaper reports. In Russia, the age of criminal responsibility is 16, according to The Moscow Times.
While the Russian judge's way of assessing age may be questionable, how do courts in America decide when to try juveniles as adults?
In general, juvenile courts can transfer cases from the juvenile court system to the adult criminal court system by way of a process called juvenile waiver. Juvenile waiver is available in all states except New York, Nebraska, and New Mexico, though the age of juvenile offenders eligible for waiver varies from state to state.
The decision to try a juvenile as an adult is generally at the discretion of the judge, but some states have provisions which exclude certain types of crimes, such as first-degree murder, from juvenile courts altogether.
This can mean that in some states, children as young as 10 may be tried as adults for serious crimes such as murder. Case in point: Twelve-year-old Jordan Brown was initially charged as an adult for a double homicide in 2010 before the case was transferred to juvenile court.
Limits on Juvenile Sentencing
Even when tried as adults, however, there are limits to the sentences that can be imposed on juvenile offenders. In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that the execution of a man for a murder committed when he was 17 was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
And in 2012, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that mandatory life sentences imposed on juvenile offenders was also a violation of the Eighth Amendment. However, the court still allows juveniles to be sentenced to life in prison without parole, but the sentence must be imposed at the discretion of the judge.
As for the teenager in Russia, his case is now under review, The Moscow Times reports.
- Weird news: Court says teen is charged as adult due to big genital size, not age (Examiner.com)
- Juvenile Justice (FindLaw)
- When Can Teens Be Tried as Adults? (FindLaw's Blotter)
- Fair to Send Juveniles to Life Without Parole? (FindLaw's Blotter)