Asha Robles

Guam - The Juvenile Justice Reform Act of 2014 went up for a public hearing this week.  If Bill 333 is enacted into law it would allow the Attorney General's Office more flexibility in determining whether a child between 16 to 18 years of age should be tried as an adult if they are charged with a 1st or 2nd degree felony.  Currently they are automatically charged as an adult.

Deputy attorney general Carol Sanchez told KUAM News, "What this bill does is it answers a lot of problems that we've had in the past that we've heard from the community concerns regarding the 'Romeo and Juliet' cases where we have sex offenders who've been dating for a period of time."

The legislation was introduced by Senator Brant McCreadie with assistance from the Attorney General's Office.  Sanchez says the measure is long overdue. He said, "It gives us the discretion I do want to clarify I know in speaking to some other people they were worried that we were taking any kind of discretion away from the courts, we didn't change any of that. There's still that ability from the courts in this particular statue to still motion or request that the government move to have either juvenile charges up or down, so that's still within the statues authority."

Senator McCreadie says the bill in no way provides a get out of jail free ticket, as juvenile offenders will still have to answer for their crime. "This is a bill that helps us create restorative justice and it helps us close the gap between that sixteen and eighteen year old and allows us to rehabilitate rather than punish," he explained.

The legislation already has bi-partisan support as several Republican and Democrat policymakers are cosponsors. The Guam Police Department meanwhile has also submitted testimony in support of the bill.