Denver youth are making waves, but not in the way people hope. Recent studies show gun violence among youth in Colorado has increased a staggering 160 percent since 2016, according to CBS 4 in Denver.
Advocates in the community are hoping to change the justice system approach to the current gun violence. The goal is to impact juveniles for years to come – and make the community safer for everyone in the process.
A handgun intervention program, also referred to as “gun court”, has been proposed to help at-risk youth. Similar to other specialty courts, it’s meant to shield young people from escalating their crimes – in this case, young people charged with gun possession. The hope is that gun court will empower and inspire youth to make better choices for their future.
Here’s what you need to know about gun violence among juveniles in Denver. We’ll cover what to expect as a parent if your child stands accused of a violent gun crime in the current juvenile justice system.
The Juvenile Justice System in Colorado
When someone under the age of 18 commits a crime, they enter the juvenile justice system. The purpose of this system is to rehabilitate minors rather than punish them.
When a minor is arrested, the authorities notify their parent or guardian. For lesser violations, children are often released to their parents. For more serious violations, like those involving weapons or violence, a case opens. The juvenile defendant must go before a judge in a detention hearing. They are often held in custody until that hearing.
At the detention hearing, the minor is advised of their rights under the law, and the judge assesses whether or not it’s reasonable to continue holding them. Per the judge’s discretion, they may be granted release, although they can still endure required monitoring until the trial.
Next, the district attorney conducts an investigation into the case. A return filing hearing takes place after this investigation.
This hearing can have several outcomes:
- Charges may be dropped- the case ends
- The child may be referred to a diversion program
- Charges are filed against the minor that spell out the allegations
Sometimes, juveniles as young as 12 can be charged as adults in criminal court if the situation is serious enough. Such charges include sex crimes or crimes of violence.
Colorado Gun Court
The proposed Colorado gun court’s goal is to help problem-solve against gun violence that seems to have reached epic proportions in the community.
Specialized courts can help fast-track cases that could otherwise take several months. Instead, time and resources can be spent enrolling minors and their families in intervention programs.
These programs would last up to one year. During that time, minors accused of gun possession would be on probation.
The terms would include counseling appointments, random drug tests, community service, and education. They would learn concepts like legal/community consequences of crime, self-care, and victim empathy. Positive relationships with peers would be reinforced as well.
It’s clear that something needs to be done to address the gun problem with juveniles in Colorado. Hopefully, gun courts will become a reality, and they’ll educate a new generation of citizens to work toward a better tomorrow.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012 & 2019” and a “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012-2020 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. Additionally, Expertise names her to its lists of the 25 Best Denver DUI Lawyers and 21 Best Denver Criminal Defense Lawyers, both in 2020. Ms. Diego has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.