Young criminal offenders would be under oversight of the state’s juvenile justice system until they reach age 25 instead of 19 under a proposal being pushed by Shelby County Juvenile Court Judge Dan Michael, according to the Commercial Appeal.
“What it would do is it would give us longer with those kids who are on the fence, who probably haven’t hurt anyone other than scared them to death, who we know may need another two years. That if we don’t hold them for those two years, they’re liable to go out and do something even worse,” said Michael.
…”The law currently says juvenile court should have jurisdiction until 19 years of age. I’m taking out 19 and plugging in 25. It changes nothing else but the age.”
But that one word change in the bill would create sweeping changes in the juvenile court system if passed. Juveniles who commit a crime before their 18th birthday would have the ability to remain in the juvenile court system until they turn 25, depending on the crime. However, a judge could still file a motion to transfer the juvenile to adult court if the offense warranted it, Michael said.
Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich said she would need to see the bill’s language to better understand Michael’s proposal, but changing the age of jurisdiction would prompt a long, complicated process.
“First of all, if you were to increase the number of individuals that would be monitored and supervised by (Department of Children’s Services), they don’t have the resources to do that,” Weirich said. “That would take additional funds, additional personnel…”
Weirich was more open to the idea of blended sentencing, where a juvenile court imposes both juvenile and adult sanctions simultaneously, with the adult sentence suspended. If the offender completes the juvenile sentence without incident, oftentimes they do not have to serve the adult sentence. If the juvenile violates the conditions of the first sentence, he or she may be required to serve the adult sentence.