In what can be a complex system for anyone, the Ohio legal system can both overwhelm and intimidate those who do not have a strong grasp of the subject. This is particularly the case for minors accused of juvenile offenses. The vast majority will be unaware of their rights and the legal protection that is afforded to them. This fact was not lost in the Ohio Supreme Court last month, when they ruled in favor of requiring certain juvenile offenders facing possible detention to consult with legal counsel before they decide to waive their right to a lawyer.
This approval of the recent rule change proposal has made Ohio a leader in the march towards legal justice for citizens of the United States. Providing a requirement for minors to be afforded the opportunity to take an assessment of their situation with the advice of an attorney will allow for a fairer and more just process. Additionally, the ruling also requires judges to advise juveniles, who could potentially be detained but did not commit the most serious offenses, about the risks of representing themselves. This is particularly beneficial for a group of individuals who likely do not have even a basic understanding of Ohio law.
The specific ruling itself does not require consultation for small offenses, such as petty theft or shoplifting, but does afford this option for more serious criminal offenses, like assault. This means that a minor can waive their right to an attorney without discussing their decision for a vandalism charge, but will be required to discuss the possible ramifications of representing themselves with a qualified attorney if that offense is robbery, for example. Considering that robbery can lead to a second-degree felony conviction (Ohio Revised Code §2911.01), the necessity for legal counsel is apparent. This simple and long overdue revision to the Ohio criminal process can help make a big difference in the eventual outcome of many juvenile cases.
Although the Supreme Court has the final say, they had to consider both the support and opposition to such a ruling. The supporters, primarily youth advocates, pushed to require all juvenile offenders an automatic consultation, whereas the opposition, primarily judges, were against a blanket requirement, stating that it would lead to cost issues and a drain on court resources.
The issue of cost is a very important one, considering the economic climate we are currently in, but limiting resources, which could compromise a fair and just criminal process of juvenile offenders, on the worry that it may lead to a cost burden, is shortsighted. Particularly for young people, proper information and an opportunity to make the right choice is something that needs to be looked at very closely. Not only are the brains of many of these alleged offenders still developing, their understanding of the rules and laws that we live by are also in a state of transition and growth. This is not an excuse for their actions, but they should be given an opportunity to approach the process in a correct and fair manner.
It tends to be in the formative years that an individual develops their view on life. If they are not given an opportunity to be properly advised, especially during a serious legal issue, there is a much higher possibility for recidivism. Lacking representation does not guarantee a disastrous outcome, but a youth offender is at a major disadvantage without the advice of a legal professional.
If is vital that every individual, no matter what the crime may be, to have the opportunity to discuss their legal problems with an attorney who can advised them on the best course of action. This will lead to a greater possibility that the individual will take the proper steps during the criminal process. Juveniles will usually be less informed and less aware of the potential ramifications of their criminal actions, so having an Ohio criminal defense attorney present to help guide the individuals can mean the difference between detention and a new opportunity to become a productive member of society.