The House of Representatives is set to debate, on Wednesday, May 22, House Bill No. 1432, which would raise the juvenile jurisdiction age from 17 to 18. Currently, 17-year-olds who are accused of a crime are held in jail with adults and tried in adult court. The commonwealth, in virtually every other area of law, sets 18 as the age of adulthood. There is no parental notification requirement regardless of the severity of the crime.
The age of 18 is required for voting, entering into legally binding contracts and jury service. However, when a 17-year-old is arrested, police can interrogate the teen without a parent present. And 17-year-old arrestees can waive their Miranda rights and enter into plea bargains without parental advice or knowledge, thereby making a decision which has a lifetime of serious societal consequences for the juvenile, by producing a permanent adult record.
Raising the age of Juvenile Court jurisdiction will promote public safety. Segregating young offenders from the adult criminal system will prevent juveniles, who are sentenced, from being mixed with older and hardened serious offenders. Research proves juveniles are more likely to re-offend when they are exposed to that negative environment.
It is also less likely that juveniles will be physically or sexually abused while in confinement, resulting in fewer suicides.
Finally, the rehabilitative nature of Juvenile Court is better suited, with specific resources and trained professionals to get delinquent juveniles -- whose adolescent brain development is still ongoing -- back on track to be productive successful citizens. To see the bill, click here