Michigan ends practice of trying 17-year-old offenders as adults

November 21, 2019

As the result of a bipartisan package of bills signed into law in October, most 17-year-old offenders in Michigan will no longer be treated as adults in the state’s criminal justice system. The goal of the “Raise the Age” Law is to better treat and rehabilitate young offenders by having them go through Michigan’s juvenile justice system. For teenagers who commit certain violent offenses, a prosecutor will have discretion to try them as adults.

According to the National Juvenile Defender Center, most Midwestern states already give their juvenile courts jurisdiction over cases involving 17-year-old offenders; the lone exception is Wisconsin. States also typically allow juvenile courts to retain jurisdiction, (most commonly up to age 21), provided the alleged offense occurred before the offender was an adult.

In a 2018 study, the National Center for Juvenile Justice estimated that close to 76,000 U.S. juveniles are prosecuted as adults. The change in Michigan will substantially reduce this number. But states also typically allow for or require certain young offenders to be charged as adults — through statutory exclusions, and language allowing for prosecutorial discretion or transfers by the juvenile court.