People v. Salas

NJDC co-authored a brief with the Children and Family Justice Center at Northwestern University School of Law’s Bluhm Legal Clinic, challenging Illinois’s automatic transfer statute, which excluded children over 15 charged with certain offenses from the jurisdiction of the juvenile court without any individualized assessment or considerations of that child’s youth.

Amici argued that with the emerging scientific research on adolescent brain development, as recognized by the Supreme Court of the United States in Roper v. Simmons and Graham v. Florida, children are “categorically less culpable than adults,” and automatic transfer violates both the U.S. Constitution and the Illinois Constitution’s proportionate penalties clause. Juveniles have lessened culpability and greater amenability to rehabilitation than adults. Additionally, amici argued that Illinois’s automatic transfer statute contravenes the history, purpose, and specialized function of the juvenile court, and that treating a teenager under the age of eighteen as an adult is inconsistent with national law and norms. Amici requested a reversal of Samuel Salas’ conviction and sentence and remand the matter for a new trial under the Juvenile Court Act, or, alternatively, that the conviction and sentence be vacated and the matter remanded to juvenile court for an individualized determination as to whether Samuel should be prosecuted and sentenced in juvenile or adult court.

Unfortunately, the Illinois Appellate Court—First District sided with the State of Illinois, and upheld the transfer statute. A January 4, 2012 rehearing was denied.

Court: Illinois Appellate Court – First District
Filed: December 27, 2010 (download .pdf)
Amicus Brief Discusses: Adolescent Development; Transfer

Decision: November 21, 2011