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Governor Whitmer Signs Bipartisan Bills to Raise the Age for Juvenile Offenders


October 31, 2019  


Governor Whitmer Signs Bipartisan Bills to Raise the Age for Juvenile Offenders 

Bills would end the practice of prosecuting minors as adults by raising the age from 17 to 18 years old. 


LANSING, Mich. - Today Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed 18 bills as part of the "Raise the Age" legislative package, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, to raise the age of who is considered an adult under the criminal justice system from 17 to 18 years old.   


"I'm proud that Michigan has joined 46 other states in ending the unjust practice of charging and punishing our children as adults when they make mistakes," Whitmer said. "These bills will strengthen the integrity of our justice system by ensuring that children have access to due process that is more responsive to juveniles." 


The signed legislation will change who is considered to be a juvenile or an adult as they make their way through the criminal justice process, including how an individual is to be detained, tried, and transported. The new law will ensure that anyone under 18 years old will be treated as a minor in juvenile court and receive the rehabilitation services that are offered in the juvenile justice system to reduce recidivism, such as those practices outlined in the Youth Rehabilitation Services Act.  


While most crimes will be subject to the updated age threshold, violent offenses could still be prosecuted as an adult under the prosecutor's discretion.  


""Raise the Age is a pivotal step for Michigan - a step 46 other states have already taken. Automatically charging 17-year-olds as adults began more than a century ago in Michigan and ignores the fact that intervention and rehabilitation, even this close to adulthood, is both humane and cost-effective for the individuals charged and for society," Nessel said. "I appreciate the strong support and advocacy for this change from the many partners who have worked tirelessly to change this law, to the bipartisan group of lawmakers who led the charge, and to Governor Whitmer for signing this legislation into law." 


Currently, Michigan is just one out of four states that still treat 17-year-old offenders as adults in the criminal justice system, regardless of their offense. By raising the age from 17 to 18 years old, Michigan can substantially reduce the number of youth being charged as adults across the country from 76,000 to 40,000.  


According to the Equal Justice Initiative, treating minors as adults can have lasting harmful effects on those individuals. Minors serving time in adult prisons are five times more likely to be sexually assaulted and 36 times more likely to commit suicide.   


The package of legislation contains sponsored bills from both the House and Senate. The following bills from the Senate were included in the package: Senate Bills 84 (VanderWall), 90 (Lucido), 93 (Chang), 97 (Hertel), 99 (Johnson), 100 (Lucido), 101 (Lucido), and 102 (Santana). The following bills from the House were included in the package: House Bills 4133 (Hauck), 4134 (Wozniak), 4135 (Calley), 4136 (Berman), 4140 (Guerra), 4142 (Elder), 4143 (Love), 4145 (Filler), 4443 (Hoitenga), and 4452 (Garrett). 


The "Raise the Age" legislation will take effect October 1, 2021.  


Notable Criminal Justice Reforms Under The Whitmer Administration 

  • In April, Governor Whitmer formed the Michigan Task Force on Jail and Pretrial Incarceration, which is co-chaired by Lt. Governor Gilchrist and Chief Justice McCormack, to kickstart a review of the state's jail and court data to improve the jail and pretrial system for the people of our state. 
  • In May, Governor Whitmer signed Senate Bill 2 and House Bills 4001 and 4002 to limit civil asset forfeiture for individuals who have not been convicted of a crime in order to increase property protections for citizens.  
  • In June, Governor Whitmer announced a partnership with LARA and MDOC to help prisoners earn the licenses they need before they're paroled. 
  • In July, Governor Whitmer unveiled the nation's first tree trimming program with DTE Energy to teach incarcerated students how to clear debris from power lines and ensure employment upon release. 
  • In October, Lt. Governor Gilchrist, in conjunction with Google and The Last Mile, unveiled Michigan's first coding program inside a state correctional facility.