Children charged as Adults

by Jill 3. October 2010 18:02

When children go to prison, no one wins. Research shows that prosecuting children in the adult criminal justice system wastes young lives, fosters crime, does not increase public safety, and costs society more in the long run.


Youth charged with a crime should start in the juvenile justice system, with judges retaining their current authority to send minors to the adult system for any felony.


Evidence shows that the juvenile system - with programs tailored to how children think and learn - is more effective at rehabilitating youth. Fewer then go on to commit another crime, which means lower costs to society and more children growing up to become educated, employed citizens.


North Carolina is one of only two states in the nation that still prosecute all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. Incarcerated children in North Carolina have no right to rehabilitative programming, mentoring, counseling, or even an education.


Tell North Carolina's leaders that it's time to join the rest of the country. Tell them to throw out this nearly 100-year-old law and put 16- and 17-year-olds in the juvenile justice system, where they can be treated, rehabilitated, educated, counseled, and prepared for a successful life.




A person who is less than 18 years of age is considered a juvenile under Colorado law. If charged with a crime, he or she is treated differently than an adult. According to section 19-2-104, C.R.S., the Colorado juvenile justice system and the juvenile court have exclusive original jurisdiction concerning a juvenile 10 years of age or older who violates:


Any federal or state law (except non-felony state traffic, game and fish, and parks and recreation laws or regulations);
Certain laws concerning furnishing cigarrettes or tobacco products to minors;
Certain laws concerning ethyl alcohol and marijuana;
County or municipal ordinances, the penalty of which may be a jail sentence of more than ten days (except traffic ordinances); and
Any court order made pursuant to the provisions of the children's code contained in title 19, C.R.S.


There are, however, certain acts that may warrant the removal of the juvenile's case to district court via either direct file or a transfer. In district court, the juvenile is tried as an adult and,if convicted, may be sentenced as an adult.


Four factors that affect the ability to try a juvenile as an adult include:
The age of the juvenile;
The type of offense charged;
The extent of the juvenile's past history of delinquency; and
Whether the district attorney invokes the district court's original jurisdictionor seeks to transfer a pending juvenile court proceeding to the district court.


As a general rule, the likelihood that a district attorney may file criminal charges against ajuvenile as an adult increases with the age of the juvenile, the severity of the charged offense,and the juvenile's past history of delinquency.


Under Colorado law, the youngest age at which a child may be tried as an adult is 12, if
the child is alleged to have committed a class 1 or 2 felony or a crime of violence and the juvenile court transfers the case to the district court.


(Colorado information provided by A Publication of the Office of Legislative Legal Services: A CHILD CAN BE TRIED AS AN ADULT.pdf )




Exciting News

by Jill 10. September 2010 19:07

I am excited to announce that I will be opening my own law practice in a couple weeks.  As a result I hope to be blogging on a regular basis.  In addition I know a lot of people have tried to subscribe to my blog and have had difficulty, I hope to have that fixed soon.

I will concentrate my practice on juvenile defense and criminal defense, personal injury, employment law, civil rights and domestics to start.  I am so excited to be able to practice in the areas of law that I want and to take the cases that truly matter to me. 

So please stay tuned for very exciting things to come!


Juvenile Justice and Mental Health-Part I

by Jill 22. August 2010 15:30

As I mentioned  in my previous “stay tuned” blog I will be posting what one municipality in Colorado is doing to help juveniles in the system who have mental health issues.  However, before I do that, I think it is important for you to understand the relationship between juveniles and the justice system and mental health issues of juveniles.  I will be posting a number of blogs addressing this issue and then I will talk about how one municipality in Colorado is making a difference in adressing this issue.

According to Statistics and References on Juvenile Delinquency, an article posted on  Mental illness and substance abuse, which often co-occurs among juvenile offenders, can contribute substantially to delinquent behavior.  Studies have consistently found very high prevalence rates of mental illness among detained and incarcerated juveniles, and juvenile offenders generally. While estimates of the percentage of juvenile offenders who have mental health problems vary widely (e.g., between about 30-90%, depending upon what is included as a mental illness), most estimates are substantially higher than the roughly 20% prevalence rate found in the non-delinquent adolescent population.  Indeed, many juvenile offenders have multiple mental health problems, and about 15-20% have a serious mental illness. Lack of appropriate treatment in adolescence may lead to further delinquency, adult criminality, and adult mental illness.

Children with mental health needs whether known or unknown sometimes enter a juvenile justice system that is ill-equipped to assist them.  Without access to treatment it may contribute to a path of behavior that includes continued delinquency and, eventually, adult criminality.

According to The Center for Mental Health Services,, Youths may experience conduct, mood, and anxiety and substance abuse disorders. Often they have more than one disorder; the most common “co-occurrence” is substance abuse with another mental illness. Frequently, these disorders put children at risk for troublesome behavior and delinquent acts. Emotional disorders occur when a child’s ability to function is impaired by anxiety or depression. The Center for Mental Health Services estimates that one in every 33 children and one in eight adolescents are affected by depression, a potentially serious mood disorder that also afflicts many adults. The occurrence of depression among juvenile offenders is significantly higher than among other young people.


Anxiety disorders, in particular post-traumatic stress disorder, also are seen to be prevalent among juvenile offender populations, in particular, girls. Psychotic disorders such as schizophrenia, however, are rare in the general population as well as in justice system-involved youths. Other disorders that affect youth are behavioral disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  It is believed that ADHD, affects 3 to 5 percent of American children and boys seem to be affected more than girls.  According to National Mental Health Association, Prevalence of Mental Disorders Among Children in the Juvenile Justice System (Alexandria, Va.: NMHA, 2006) the prevalence of disruptive behavior disorders among youths in juvenile justice systems is reported to be between 30 and 50 percent.  In addition, Substance abuse and dependency also are considered behavioral disorders and often are linked to acts of crime and delinquency. Because Mental health disorders are more complicated and difficult to treat in youths than in adults assessment and treatment plays an important role, especially for juveniles in the justice system.


Stay Tuned

by Jill 16. August 2010 20:43

Please stay tuned to my blog... I am hoping to post a blog very soon about what one municipality is doing to help juveniles who have mental health issues!


Juvenile Right to Jury Trial

by Jill 14. August 2010 16:54

Amendment 6 of the United States Constitution sets forth that in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed.  In addition, the Colorado Constitution also affords that same right, except for juveniles.  In Colorado juveniles only have the right to a jury trial if they are considered an aggravated offender or are alleged to have committed an act that would constitute a crime of violence.  

Colorado Revised Statutes
19-2-107. Right to jury trial.
  (1) In any action in delinquency in which a juvenile is alleged to be an
aggravated juvenile offender, as described in section 19-2-516, or is
alleged to have committed an act that would constitute a crime of violence,
as defined in section 18-1.3-406, C.R.S., if committed by an adult, the
juvenile or the district attorney may demand a trial by a jury of not more
than six persons except as provided in section 19-2-601(3)(a), or the
court, on its own motion, may order such a jury to try any case brought
under this title, except as provided in subsection (2) of this section.
  (2) The juvenile is not entitled to a trial by jury when the petition
alleges a delinquent act which is a misdemeanor, a petty offense, a
violation of a municipal or county ordinance, or a violation of a court

The Supreme Court held jury trials were not constitutionally required in juvenile delinquency cases, McKeiver v. Pennsylvania, 403 U.S. 528 (1971), a ruling adopted by the Colorado Supreme Court in A.C., IV. v. People, 16 P.3d 240 (Colo. 2001), and People in the Interest of T.M., 742 P.2d 905 (Colo. 1987).  However, many including myself feel that in many, if not all situations, a juvenile should have the right to trial by jury.  I have personally seen the difference a jury can make.  I have been fortunate enough to try well over 20 jury trials in my short time as attorney. I have also had my share of court trials and the success rate with a trial to a jury far exceeds that of a trial to the court.  While none of these trials have yet been in the juvenile realm, I am scheduled to try my first juvenile trial before a jury.  This jury trial was granted after my motion to the court requesting a trial even though this case did not fall under Colorado Statute wherein a trial by jury would normally be granted.

There are many reasons why a juvenile would want a trial by jury.  One compelling reason is that in the juvenile justice system the Magistrate has already been so exposed to the case and the surrounding issues and facts that it could be difficult for him or her to be impartial when the case is tried in front of them. Another reason is the severity of the offense.  Particularly in cases of sex crimes where, if a juvenile is convicted, there is the stigma of being a convicted sex offender along with the registration requirements.  Other reasons to argue in favor of a jury trial for a juvenile is that sentencing options include the removal of a juvenile from home and placement of the juvenile in the legal custody of the county department of human services. See COL.REV.STAT. § 19-2-907(1)(g), and the juvenile may be committed for up to two years in a locked institution if the juvenile is convicted of a felony or misdemeanor. See COL.REV.STAT. § 19-2-909(1)(a).

While this doesn’t even begin to cover all the reasons or arguments for juveniles to be afforded the same rights as adults in our system, particularly the right to a jury trial, I hope it makes you think about it and if you have any thoughts or comments about the subject, please post.




by Jill 8. August 2010 18:06

Hi!  Welcome to my new blog. I am so excited!  First a big thank you to my husband for getting this site up and running.  Juvenile defense is my passion and the reason why I created this site. I hope this site will be a resource for anybody that cares about the defense of juveniles. I plan to add links to other sites dedicated to juvenile defense. My goal is to educate those regarding the struggles our juveniles face in the juvenile justice system.  Also there is a section donated to CLEs and other training.  If you know of any CLEs or training that would be of interest or help to anyone interested in juvenile defense, please email me so I can post them. And lastly if you have a comment please post!


About Jill Gookin

I am an attorney in Colorado, formerly I practiced in a small firm in Denver and was the acting public defender in Lakewood.  I now have my own practice in Northern Colorado. Gookin Law, LLC., 1635 Foxtrail Dr. #332, Loveland, CO 80538.  I practice in the areas of criminal defense, personal injury, employment law and family law.

Most importantly, I am privileged to be court appointed counsel for juveniles in Weld County. I hope to expand into other counties. Juvenile defense is my passion and what this blog is dedicated to. I hope to journal my experience as a juvenile defense attorney and share my experiences and what I learn in the process. I want to educate myself and others in this process. I encourage anyone who cares about juveniles, whether you are an attorney, a guardian ad litem, a parent or juvenile to join me in this blog by sharing your experiences and knowledge.

"I'm convinced that every boy, in his heart, would rather steal second base than an automobile"

~Tom Clark~

We must defend our children!


Gookin Law Blog is a site to journal, learn, share, and educate others about the defense of juveniles by Jill Gookin a Colorado attorney.  This site does not provide legal advice and any opinions expressed on this site are solely those of the author. 


<<  November 2015  >>

View posts in large calendar