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Mar 01

Missouri Lawmakers Renew Push to Try 17-Year-Olds in Juvenile Court

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

By Celeste Bott

A proposal to raise the age at which young offenders can be tried in Missouri’s adult court system to 18 is garnering bipartisan support, but juvenile officers want to be sure the state can pay for what many acknowledge would be a positive change.

While 17-year-olds can’t vote, buy a pack of cigarettes, sit on a jury or join the military, under Missouri state law, they can be tried in an adult court if they commit a crime.

“I call them children,” Rep. Nick Schroer, an O’Fallon Republican sponsoring a House version of the “raise the age” bill, told a legislative panel on Tuesday. “It’s time Missouri has a serious conversation about how to address this.”

Similar measures have been introduced in years past, but they have stalled. If the bill is approved and signed into law this year, Missouri would join 43 other states that have raised the age, as research continues to emerge showing the human brain isn’t fully developed by age 17.

“We are an outlier. We are behind the times and seen as problematic because we allow all 17-year-olds to be automatically treated as adults,” Mae Quinn, director of the MacArthur Justice Center in St. Louis, told the Post-Dispatch. “Unfortunately, in years past some of the greatest opposition to raising the age in Missouri has come from the very people who claim they’re looking out for the children in our courts.”

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Source: JusticeCenter

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