Building on the progress in 2017 of the “Raise the Age” movement, more states this year introduced and passed legislation to increase the age at which youth can be tried as adults. In March, Washington State rolled back a 1997 law that automatically sent most 16- and 17-year-olds charged with violent crimes, first-degree robbery, and first-degree burglary into the adult system.Washington SB 6160 (2018). Also see Teresa Wiltz, “Washington Governor Signs Bill Limiting the Number of Youth Transferred to Adult Court,” Pew Charitable Trusts, March 23, 2018.
Under the new law, most will now stay in the juvenile justice system, with the exception of some charged with violent crimes including murder and manslaughter.Washington SB 6160 (2018). Also see Wiltz, “Washington Governor Signs Bill,” 2018.
And, in September, California banned the prosecution of youth aged 14 and 15 in adult criminal court for any crime, making it the first state to do so.California SB 1391 (2018); and California SB 439 (2018). Also see Jeremy Loudenback, “California Governor Signs Off on Sweeping Juvenile Justice Legislation,” Chronicle of Social Change, October 1, 2018; and John Kelly, “California Passes Bill Banning Transfer of Juveniles Under 16,” Chronicle of Social Change, August 30, 2018.
In October, New York implemented the first phase of its 2017 “Raise the Age” law, bringing 16-year-olds under juvenile jurisdiction.Raise the Age NY, “Get the Facts.” Also see Christopher Robbins, “Raise the Age Moves All Young Teenagers off Rikers Island,” Gothamist, October 1, 2018.
North Carolina is now the only state that automatically handles 16-year-olds as adults when they are arrested, although the state will begin implementing its 2017 Raise the Age legislation in December 2019.North Carolina SB 257 (2017), § 16D.4.(c); and North Carolina Department of Public Safety, “Raise the Age – NC.” Also see “Juvenile Justice Report: In 2019, 17-Year-Olds Will No Longer Be Charged As Adults in NC,” WRAL, July 13, 2018.
Four states—Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and Wisconsin—still consider 17-year-olds to be adults in all cases and are not yet contemplating laws to raise the age to 18.John Kelly, “In Another Big Year for ‘Raise the Age’ Laws, One State Now Considers All Teens as Juveniles,” Chronicle of Social Change, June 25, 2018.
Massachusetts and Illinois both considered bills this year that would raise the age at which someone could be considered an adult in criminal proceedings. The Illinois bill, which died in committee, would have raised the age progressively: by January 1, 2019, “delinquent minor” would refer to those younger than 19 and, by January 1, 2021, to those younger than 21.Illinois HB 4581 (2018). The Massachusetts bill, which raised the age to a more conservative 18, was signed into law; the bill was part of a larger reform package that also made it easier to seal and expunge records for some convictions if the offense was committed before the age of 21.Massachusetts SB 2371 (2018). Vermont’s Raise the Age legislation takes an expansive view of childhood: in May, Vermont became the first state to raise the age of automatic juvenile court jurisdiction beyond 18; by the year 2022, all teenagers will be considered juveniles for court jurisdiction purposes, with the exception of those charged with some violent felonies.Vermont SB 234 (2018); and Kelly, “‘Raise the Age’ Laws,” 2018. And, like Massachusetts, Vermont expanded sealing and expungement options for convictions of people whose offenses were committed when they were under 21.Vermont SB 234, § 7609 (2018) (expungement of criminal history records of an individual 18-21 years of age).
Not all the news was positive: Louisiana delayed implementing its 2017 “Raise the Age” law, citing concerns about the costs of housing more people in juvenile facilities.Paul Braun, “'Raise the Age' Bill May Not Be Implemented Right Away,” Daily Advertiser, May 8, 2018. In June, Governor John Bel Edwards signed SB 248, which moves implementation of the age change for 17-year-olds charged with nonviolent crimes from July 1, 2018, to March 1, 2019.Louisiana SB 238 (2018). The date for those charged with more serious crimes remains unchanged and will phase in on July 1, 2020.Louisiana SB 238 (2018). Also see “Louisiana ‘Raise the Age’ Law to Be Delayed Several Months,” U.S. News & World Report, May 17, 2018.