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New MI Law Says 17-Year-Olds Will No Longer Be Prosecuted as Adults!

A picture of a teen boy standing with his arms folded. He is wearing a black and white striped shirt, reminiscent of a prisoner.
Treating teens as adults, and sending them into adult prisons, can have life-long detrimental effects. But Michigan has finally changed the law!

The issue of juveniles being automatically prosecuted as adults in Michigan has been a controversial subject for a long time. For many years, it seems, the idea was that by treating juveniles as adults, we’d ensure that they get stiffer sentences more proportional to the crimes they commit. Why? To lower the rate of juvenile crimes, of course. 

Except it isn’t working. Juvenile crime is actually on the rise all over Michigan, including in Lansing, Detroit, Jackson and Battle Creek. Which means that it makes no difference how serious the threat of punishment is, kids are going to break the law anyway. But when it happens, should they be treated like adults?

The Governor has finally signed Michigan’s “raise the age” bill into law!

In February of 2018, bipartisan Senate Bills 92, 95, and 102 were introduced, aiming to raise the age on when a juvenile can be automatically treated as an adult by the criminal justice system. Until now, Michigan law required that 17-year-olds automatically be prosecuted as adults if they broke the law. This includes both non- violent and violent offenses. However, that’s about to change.

Recently, Governor Whitmer signed the bills into law, changing the way juveniles are prosecuted by the state, and how they can be incarcerated, should they be prosecuted like adults. According to the governor’s office, this will reduce the number of 17-year-olds being charged with felonies and misdemeanors in Michigan by up to 7,200 annually. That’s a lot of kids!

So what exactly will the new law change here in Michigan?

The new law, which takes effect in October of 2021, will change the “automatically” part of the equation, and the age at which a person can be treated like an adult when charged with a crime. In other words, a prosecutor can still choose to try a 17-year-old as an adult for certain very serious crimes like rape or murder. Otherwise, juveniles will be tried as juveniles and will be kept out of the adult criminal justice system. Beginning at age 18, everyone will be in the adult criminal justice system. 

In cases where juveniles are tried as adults and end up in adult prisons, they must be physically separated from the other adult inmates, as in ‘kept where they cannot be seen or heard’. , According to the Raise the Age Coalition, this is because teens tried as adults are more likely to be raped and assaulted in prison or jail, die by suicide, or re-offend after their release.

Changing the law doesn’t change the mindset

As you already know, changing a law doesn’t change the way people think about it. So one thing we’re curious about is whether or not, during the next two years before the new law takes effect, judges change their view of 17-year-olds being in adult court. It will certainly be interesting to see that transition take effect, and watch as the different courts around the state of Michigan implement the coming age changes.

At The Kronzek Firm, we’ve had a great deal of experience working with juvenile offenders over the years. Our experienced and compassionate criminal defense attorneys understand the subtle combination of sensitivity and drive required to defend teens accused of crimes in Michigan. So if your child is facing criminal charges in Mecosta, Dewitt, Alma or Grand Rapids, call us at 866 766 5245 today. We’re available 24/7 to help.

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