A bill that would funnel charges brought against youth into the juvenile justice system, rather than into the adult criminal justice system, has advanced.
The Unicameral has moved LB 464 forward on a unanimous vote.
That didn’t mean there weren’t reservations about the measure.
Sen. Scott Lautenbaugh of Omaha tells colleagues he doesn’t believe the bill has addressed all the issues raised by county attorneys.
“Well, there’s definitely work to be done,” Lautenbaugh says. “I’m glad the concerns of the county attorneys and the counties and others will be heard. I appreciate Sen. Ashford doing that.”
Though he’s willing to consider changes, Sen. Brad Ashford of Omaha, says the Legislature cannot put off the issue.
“We must not avoid this problem again. This must be solved this year. We must pursue this matter this year,” Ashford tells colleagues during floor debate.
Nebraska law directs cases against juveniles into adult court. Prosecutors can decide whether cases get transferred into the juvenile justice system. Still, about half of all juvenile cases remain in the adult system.
Ashford contends most juvenile offenders need treatment, not punishment.
“To try to break the continuum from early indications of problems to violence and more difficult behavioral issues as these young people get older and go through the system,” Ashford states.
Yet, Lautenbaugh warns that a tilt toward treatment can go too far.
“And I think we have to tread lightly and carefully, especially when we’re talking about the most serious offenses,” Lautenbaugh cautions.
The bill flips the current system. Criminal charges filed against someone younger than 18 would be filed in juvenile court. Cases could be transferred to adult court after a hearing before the juvenile court.