LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) – Legislation moving through a state house committee wants to change how juveniles are charged.
If the bill is passed, 17-year-olds will no longer be considered adults.
Both lawmakers and court administrators agree that 17-year-olds make irrational and sometimes unlawful decisions but the question remains; should they pay the same price for their mistakes as adults?
One state lawmaker says if the crime is not heinous, then the answer is “no”.
State Representative Peter Lucido says he is working to get a bill passed calling for lawmakers to make big changes on how they charge juveniles in Michigan.
“You see in this state, you can’t buy cigarettes at 17. You can’t enlist in the military at 17,” says Rep. Lucido.
“You can’t even go ahead and buy a bottle of booze at 17. So why are we going ahead and charging them as if they’re of age to do those things?”
House Bill 4607, known as Raise the Age Legislation, was introduced to the Committee on Law and Justice in May, after stalling in the senate last session.
“The bill package went through the house and they debated it,” says Senator Rick Jones.
“They simply didn’t get enough support to pass it at this time.”
Raise the Age advocates say 17-year-olds are still mentally developing and should not be charged as adults.
Supporters of the bill say 17-year-olds should be afforded the opportunity to receive treatment designed for the youth, rather than being sent to a system structured for mature offenders.
“In theory it makes sense from a brain development stand-point and a human development stand-point however I think there will be some concerns on how to fund it,” says Deputy Court Administrator Scott LeRoy.
Juvenile circuit court administrators say if the Raise the Age legislation is passed, then each county in the state would absorb the cost.
“Many of the counties are worried that they will suddenly have an influx of 17-year-olds in the county juvenile system and that is a great deal of costs,” says Senator Jones.
In Ingham County, it costs $300-per-day to house and serve each juvenile.
If the Raise the Age bill is passed, the county would need a 20 percent increase in funds for juvenile rehabilitation services.
A committee hearing date has not yet been scheduled.ONLINE:House Bill 4607