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Age of Reason

AGE OF REASON

The age at which a child is considered capable of acting responsibly.

Under common law, seven was the age of reason. Children under the age of seven were conclusively presumed incapable of committing a crime because they did not possess the reasoning ability to understand that their conduct violated the standards of acceptable community behavior. Those between the ages of seven and fourteen were presumed incapable of committing a crime, but this presumption could be overcome by evidence, such as the child having possession of the gun immediately after the shooting. The rebuttable presumption for this age group was based on the assumption that, as the child grew older, he or she learned to differentiate between right and wrong. A child over the age of fourteen was considered to be fully responsible for his or her actions. Many states have modified the age of criminal responsibility by statute.

All states have enacted legislation creating juvenile courts to handle the adjudication of young persons, usually under eighteen, for criminal conduct rather than have them face criminal prosecution as an adult. However, a child of thirteen who commits a violent crime may be tried as an adult in many jurisdictions.

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Reason, Age of

Age of Reason: see Enlightenment.

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