In a line of recent cases that have rocked the world of juvenile law, the Supreme Court relied on the latest brain science research with the timeless knowledge of parents to state forcefully and repeatedly that children are more impetuous, more vulnerable to outside pressures, less depraved, and less culpable for their actions than adults are. Yet criminal statutes refer to the “reasonable person” standard, which does not take into account the age of the accused as the benchmark for guilt or innocence. In doing so, we hold children to an irrelevant and arguably unfairly demanding behavioral ideal, and criminalize normative adolescent behavior. This result is entirely inconsistent with the Court’s holdings that require special treatment for juveniles in the custody analysis for Miranda cases and in sentencing. Furthermore, the records of juvenile adjudications have lifelong, negative collateral consequences on children’s educational, employment, housing, and military opportunities and subvert the rehabilitative purpose of the juvenile system. In this article, we argue that states' juvenile codes and the Model Penal Code should be amended to explicitly refer to a reasonable child standard for any mens rea element that relies on a reasonable person as the measure for criminal culpability.

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