Michigan lawmakers introduce bill to classify 17-year-olds as juveniles for criminal offenses

Posted at 11:22 AM, Feb 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-02-20 12:09:56-05

(WXYZ) — A bill was introduced in the Michigan State Senate that would classify 17-year-olds as juveniles for criminal offenses.

State Sen. Sylvia Santana's legislation is part of a larger "Raise the Age" bill package, supported by both Republicans and Democrats, that also aims to prohibit people under 18 from being placed in adult prisons.

Under current Michigan law, 17-year-olds are automatically prosecuted as adults if they get in trouble with the law, even for non-violent offenses.

“Seventeen-year-olds aren’t old enough to purchase cigarettes, lottery tickets, vote or serve in the military, but yet we have a law that states they’re old enough to be tried as an adult in the courtroom,” Sen. Santana said. “It isn’t right, and we’re denying our troubled youth an opportunity to reform themselves and do better.”

Michigan, Missouri, Texas, Georgia and Wisconsin are states that still automatically charge someone who is 17-years-old as adults, regardless of the crime, despite national and international laws stating that 18 is the age of adulthood. However, under the introduced legislation, teenagers who have committed serious crimes, including murder and rape, could still be prosecuted as adults.

“We should be rehabilitating our children into successful members of our society and helping them realize their potential to get their lives back on track,” Sen. Santana said. “The pipeline to prison needs to end and decades of bad policies that simply don’t work need to be reversed. It’s my intent to see that this legislation gets carried all the way to the governor’s desk so that we can make these long overdue, and necessary, reforms become reality in Michigan’s judicial system.”