Michigan's "Raise The Age” bill is now law. Once enacted into law in October 2021, 17-year-olds will be prosecuted as juveniles rather than adults for most crimes, excluding heinous ones.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed the legislation into law on Thursday.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel said the current method of prosecuting 17-year-olds goes back more than a century.
“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 society,” Nessel said in a statement.
Sen. Peter J. Lucido, R-Shelby Township, who sponsored the bill, previously told The Center Square that placing 17-year-olds in prison “with sharks” would probably hurt that minor’s future.
Lucido said the bill will prevent a one-time, petty mistake from looming over an individual for decades.
“We don’t want them to have a criminal conviction that will stigmatize them for the rest of their lives and cause taxpayers to pay more money,” Lucido said,
The law will allow prosecutors to place the 17-year-olds into the adult system if they’ve committed a heinous crime such as murder.
Michigan is one of five states, including Georgia, Missouri, Texas and Wisconsin, that automatically prosecute 17-year-olds as adults.
Nina Bala, associate director of criminal justice and civil liberties at The R Street Institute, a nonprofit, nonpartisan public research organization, previously told The Center Square that childhood mistakes don’t necessarily define future potential.
“They can’t join the army, buy a lottery ticket, so they are adults only for this purpose, which is pretty strange,” Bala said, adding that the Supreme Court has ruled that children should be treated differently than adults.
“This is a proud moment for me and all who have worked so hard over the years to get the Raise the Age plan passed, and it is especially great news for our state’s youth,” Lucido said in a statement. “Finally, Michigan’s criminal justice system will treat 17-year-olds like the adolescents they are, which will provide them the opportunity to learn from their youthful mistakes and a better chance at becoming productive members of society as adults.”
Raise the Age is part of sweeping criminal justice reform in the Michigan Legislature, including Clean Slate bills that would enact automatic expungement for some criminal charges after certain milestones, aimed to reduce the state’s jail and corrections expenditures.