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17-year-olds are not adults

• Dec 6, 2018 at 12:00 AM

It would be easier to praise Michigan lawmakers for doing the right thing if the bad things they do were not so breathtakingly awful.

A different sort of legislative spinelessness, though, might bring a little justice to Michigan.

Politicians want to look tough on crime. So, beginning about three decades ago, Michigan has worked to lock up as many teenage offenders as possible. That also happened elsewhere, but most states have seen the folly of automatically charging 17-year-olds as adults.

Michigan is one of only four states that considers 17-year-olds adults in criminal courts. They are still children when it comes to signing a contract, deciding whether to stay in school, serve on a jury, vote in elections, use tobacco, purchase fireworks, get a tattoo or buy a lottery ticket.

A package of bills to fix that passed out of a House committee last week. If passed, it would treat 17-year-olds charged with most crimes as children. Eighteen-year-olds could be tried in adult courts and sent to adult prisons.

Prosecutors would still have the discretion to petition some younger teen offenders to adult courts, depending on the nature of the offense. And certain serious offenses would automatically shift to the adult system.


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