Current Tennessee law sets the age of criminal responsibility at 18. If House Bill 1029 passes, the state will lower that age to 17.
If the law passes, a 17-year-old facing any criminal charge will face the adult court system instead of going through the juvenile court system. Additionally, 13 to 16-year-olds facing certain serious criminal charges could also face prosecution in adult courts.
Who would the new legislation affect?
Anyone aged 13 or older facing murder charges could face prosecution as an adult under the proposed legislation. Minors aged 14, 15 or 16 facing changes such as robbery, rape or kidnapping would first go to the adult court system, but the district attorney can petition to transfer their cases to the juvenile court instead.
What are the arguments for and against the legislation?
Advocates for the bill say that courts should treat serious crimes by juveniles the same as adult crimes and that holding juvenile offenders accountable is necessary for public safety. Opponents of the bill say that the legislation will only harm the state by overwhelming the courts and law enforcement officials without making residents any safer. Additionally, opponents say that it goes against the principle of reforming youth and that placing young people in adult prisons will increase recidivism, leading to more crime.
If the legislation passes, minors facing criminal charges will need to not only build a strong defense for their case but focus on ensuring the justice system treats their cases as juvenile offenses, rather than going through the adult criminal justice system.