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Senate Ups Ante For Juvenile Drug Dealers

Thu., Feb. 19, 1998

The state Senate continued its crackdown on juvenile crime Wednesday, voting narrowly to include drug trafficking in the list of crimes for which teenagers 14 to 18 can be tried as adults.

On a 20-13 vote, the bill was sent to the House over bipartisan objections. Opponents said it would further erode judicial discretion and fail to focus beefed-up enforcement on the adult pushers who are using juveniles as mules to deliver drugs.

“These kids are obviously misguided to begin with,” Democrat Betsy Dunklin of Boise said. “The problem is with widespread drug abuse, a societal problem. Criminalizing an addicted juvenile is not solving this problem.”

Adding drug trafficking to the list of crimes like murder and rape that juveniles can be tried for as adults comes less than a week after the Senate voted overwhelmingly to create a list of juvenile sex offenders and make it public.

Skeptics of the latest bill questioned the advisability of subjecting 14- and 15-year-olds to mandatory minimum one-year prison terms and possibly 15-year terms.

But advocates of the bill, citing current law that leads drug pushers to tell teenagers nothing serious can happen to them for being delivery boys, argued that the acts involved are so serious that substantial penalties are justified.

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