Gov. Whitmer Raises Age of Criminal Responsibility

Today, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed 18 bills as part of the “Raise the Age” legislative package. The new law raises the age of who is considered an adult under the criminal justice system from 17 to 18 years old.

“I’m proud that Michigan has joined 46 other states in ending the unjust practice of charging and punishing our children as adults when they make mistakes,” Whitmer said. “These bills will strengthen the integrity of our justice system by ensuring that children have access to due process that is more responsive to juveniles.” 

What will the “Raise the Age” legislation do?

The “Raise the Age” legislative package will change who is considered to be a juvenile or an adult as they make their way through the court system and criminal justice process. This process includes how an individual is to detained, tried, and transported in juvenile detention.

Additionally, the new law ensures that anyone under 18 years old is treated as a minor in juvenile court and receive the rehabilitation services that are offered in the juvenile justice system.

Why raise the age?

While many states have classified 17-year-olds as minors in the legal system, Michigan is one of the four states that automatically prosecute 17-year-olds as adults when charged or convicted of a crime.

Social service and law enforcement experts cite the underdevelopment of the adolescent brain as a main reason for the reclassification of 17-year-olds as juveniles. Additionally, there are serious dangers adult prisons pose to young people.

Studies show that youth in adult prisons are twice as likely to report being beaten by staff. They are also 50% more likely to be attacked with a weapon, than children placed in youth facilities. Additionally, youth in adult prisons face the highest risk of sexual assault of all inmate populations.

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The recidivism rate is especially high among youth. Approximately 80% of youth released from adult prisons often go on to commit more serious crimes after they are initially released. By raising the age from 17 to 18 years old, Michigan can substantially reduce the number of youth being charged as adults across the country from 76,000 to 40,000.

Timeline of “Raise the Age” legislative package

  • April 2017: New York State raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years of age. They also establish special courts in certain areas known as Adolescent Diversion Parts or “Youth Parts.”
  • April 2019: The Michigan Senate overwhelmingly approved a package of bills aimed to classify 17-year-olds as minors in the state’s criminal justice system.
  • April 2019: Gov. Whitmer formed the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which is co-chaired by Lt. Gov. Gilchrist and Chief Justice McCormack, to kickstart a review of the state’s jail and court data to improve the jail and pretrial system for the people of our state.
  • May 2019: Gov. Whitmer signed Senate Bill 2 and House Bills 4001 and 4002 to limit civil asset forfeiture for individuals who have not been convicted of a crime in order to increase property protections for citizens.
  • June 2019: Gov. Whitmer announced a partnership with LARA and MDOC to help prisoners earn the licenses they need before they’re paroled.
  • July 2019: Gov. Whitmer unveiled the nation’s first tree trimming program with DTE Energy to teach incarcerated students how to clear debris from power lines and ensure employment upon release.
  • October 2019: Lt. Gov. Gilchrist, in conjunction with Google and The Last Mile, unveiled Michigan’s first coding program inside a state correctional facility.
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Most crimes, such as DUI offenses, will be subject to the updated age threshold. However, be advised that prosecutors may still classify 16 and 17-year-olds as adults for violent offenses.

How to hire an attorney for teen DUI charges

While this recent legislation certainly holds a promising future, these laws have yet to go into effect. Therefore, it’s vital to hire an experienced attorney who won’t judge your parenting skills and will fight for your child’s right to a suitable life.