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Whitmer signs bills to treat 17-year-olds as juveniles

Gretchen Whitmer
Posted at 12:21 PM, Nov 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-11-01 12:21:23-04

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has signed legislation to raise the age of which offenders are treated as adults in the criminal justice system, from 17 to 18 years old.

The move Thursday means Michigan will no longer be among just four states to consider 17-year-olds as adults. The change will take effect in two years.

“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.”

The plan would raise that to age 18, which would be in line with state laws and national and international policies that declare adulthood to begin at age 18, according to the "Raise The Age" website.

They say that prosecuting those under the age of 18 as adults is "harmful to children, threatens public safety, and is expensive."

“Raise the Age is a pivotal step for Michigan – a step 46 other states have already taken. Automatically charging 17-year-olds as adults began more than a century ago in Michigan and ignores the fact that intervention and rehabilitation, even this close to adulthood, is both humane and cost-effective for the individuals charged and for society,” Nessel said. “I appreciate the strong support and advocacy for this change from the many partners who have worked tirelessly to change this law, to the bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the charge, and to Governor Whitmer for signing this legislation into law.”

Supporters of the bills say putting 17-years-olds in the adult system can affect their ability to get a job and make it more likely they will re-offend.

They also say that the benefits of raising the age would allow 17-year-olds to have access to age-appropriate rehabilitative services.

Prosecutors could still try 17-year-olds as adults for violent offenses such as murder.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist says "raising the age" in Michigan will substantially lower the number of youth being charged as adults across the country, from 76,000 down to 40,000.

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