Plan ends policy requiring 17-year-olds to be treated as adults in court
The House Judiciary Committee today unanimously approved state Rep. Ryan Berman’s plan to improve the way 17-year-olds are treated in Michigan’s criminal justice system.
Berman, who sponsored the plan alongside a bipartisan group of his colleagues, said Michigan is one of just four states still requiring all 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as adults – even those who commit the most minor offenses. He said eliminating this outdated practice will help rehabilitate young offenders and reduce the likelihood of them breaking the law again in the future.
“Right now, we’re tying the prosecutors’ hands and forcing them to charge all 17-year-olds as adults, even though most of these kids have committed non-violent, misdemeanor offenses,” said Berman, of Commerce Township. “This plan allows prosecutors and judges to use their discretion to identify the best path forward.”
The proposal would raise the age at which individuals are considered adults for the purposes of prosecuting and adjudicating criminal offenses, allowing 17-year-olds to be treated as minors within the juvenile system in most circumstances beginning Oct. 1, 2021. Prosecutors would continue to have discretion, allowing them to waive minors who commit violent crimes into the adult system when appropriate.
Berman said the proposal is expected to save public tax dollars over time. Other states that have raised the age have downsized their juvenile justice systems and lowered both short-term and long-term costs. Including 17-year-olds in the juvenile system has been shown to reduce reoffending by 34 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
House Bills 4133-46, 4443 and 4452 now move to the full House for consideration.