Massachusetts’ 17-year-old offenders may be treated as Juveniles rather than Adults

In Massachusetts, 17-year-olds accused of a crime are treated as adults, regardless of the circumstances involved or the seriousness of the offense. This means that they are generally sent to prison rather than juvenile detention facilities. However, a bill pushed by Massachusetts representative Brad Hill that would allow 17-year-olds to be treated as juveniles rather than adult-level criminals in most cases in Massachusetts, has recently been cleared through the Senate and approved by the House of Representatives. Hill stated that there are a number of reasons he supports the bill. One being the negative effects that prison can have on 17-yr-olds, and another being the conflicting age of majority in many other states and the federal system.

The bill would encompass a plan called the youthful diversion program which would differ from person to person.The district attorney’s office would have full discretion as to whether a 17-year-old would be charged as an adult criminal or juvenile offender. The bill would allow for flexibility depending on the severity of the crime and not, for example, change the law dictating that 17-year-olds accused of murder or other serious violent crimes be tried in adult court.

I agree with and support the logic behind this new bill.18 is the age of majority in 39 other states and the Federal system so why is it different within the Massachusetts criminal justice system? Because 17-yr-olds are minors, they should be treated as such in all aspects of their lives. They cannot vote, serve on a jury, or even buy tobacco; so why should they be sent to adult prisons? When 17-yr-olds are charged as adults, their names and criminal records are made public. This could cause many of them extreme difficulties when it comes to finding employment, applying for college, or other aspects of their adult lives. There is not even a possibility of these adult records being sealed until a minimum of 10 years after the disposition has been completed. On the other hand, when charged as a juvenile, records can be sealed after only 3 years from the completion of the disposition. Many of these teens are still very impressionable and have a great chance of changing their ways if given the proper care and assistance. In my opinion, prison can be a further problem for these 17-yr-olds rather than a much needed solution.

If you have been charged with any criminal offense in Massachusetts, contact my office immediately for your free initial consultation:

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