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Michigan House passes bill to raise criminal adult age to 18

Milestones differ, but most people would agree that 18 is the age of legal adulthood. That is the minimum age you can vote and fight in the military, among other things.

But in one important way, Michigan law contends that adulthood begins at 17. That is the age when criminal defendants are presumed to be adults, with 14- to 16-year-olds eligible to be tried or sentenced as adults, though they must be waived into adult court in some cases.

Most parents of a 17-year-old would dispute that their son or daughter is all grown up, and automatically deserves to face incarceration with much older convicts. The idea appears to have become unpopular with Michigan legislators as well. A bill to raise the age of default adult trial to 18 was part of a package of legislation that the House passed on Apr. 27 and 28 by huge margins, WWJ-TV reports.

Besides defining 17-year-olds at juveniles, the legislation would also ban imprisoning minors under 18 in adult facilities, even in segregation from adults. It would also take away the obligation from judges to put extra weight on the seriousness of the crime and the child defendant’s prior record when considering whether to sentence him or her as an adult.

The changes to the law have strong bipartisan support. Rep. Harvey Santana, D-Detroit, said that trying all 17-year-olds as adults is “outdated.” Rep. Kurt Heise said that putting minors in prison only leads to recidivism.

Currently, just nine states consider 17-year-olds to be adults by default in criminal court.

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