State Legislature OKs raising age for adult prosecution

By David Eggert
Associated Press

LANSING (AP) — State lawmakers gave final approval Wednesday to bills that would end Michigan’s status as one of just a handful of states where 17-year-old offenders are prosecuted as adults.

Starting in October 2021, 17-year-olds would be handled in the juvenile system. Prosecutors could still try 14- to 17-year-olds as adults for violent offenses such as murder.

Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer supports the overall goal of the legislation and was reviewing changes that were made as part of a compromise in the Republican-led Legislature.

“There has been little good to come out of prosecuting our children as adults, and I look forward to them returning back into their schools and workplaces instead of a state prison,” said Sen. Sylvia Santana, a Detroit Democrat and a sponsor of the bill.

Another sponsor, Republican Sen. Peter Lucido of Macomb County’s Shelby Township, said the legislation is long overdue, saying 17-year-olds cannot vote, sit on a jury, join the military or enter into binding contracts.
Locking them up with adults ensures “they’re learning how to become better criminals,” he said.

For four years, the state would pay the full amount of counties’ additional juvenile justice costs associated with handling an additional 7,500 cases. Beginning in October 2025, the costs would be incorporated into the traditional 50-50 split arrangement between the state and counties.

The nonpartisan Senate Fiscal Agency estimates that the state would incur additional costs of between $19.3 million and $54.3 million annually in today’s dollars.

The main measures were passed 35-3 in the Senate and 104-6 and 101-7 in the House.

If Whitmer signs the legislation, three states — Texas, Georgia and Wisconsin — would still have a maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction of 16. Missouri’s law increasing its juvenile age to 17 takes effect in 2021.

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