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Deal reached to raise age of ­adulthood in criminal cases

LANSING (AP) — A Michigan legislative committee has backed bipartisan bills that would raise the age at which criminal defendants would be automatically treated as adults, following a compromise to resolve funding and other issues.

The unanimous votes suggest the bills will ultimately succeed and they came months after the Republican-led House and Senate approved earlier versions. A key component of the deal includes having the state pay the full amount of counties’ additional juvenile justice costs associated with raising the age from 16 to 17 years old for an offender’s case to be handled by the juvenile system.

The maximum age of juvenile court jurisdiction is 17 in 45 states, while Missouri’s law increasing the age to 17 will take effect in 2021. Michigan’s proposed change would take effect in October 2021.

Senate Judiciary and Criminal Justice Committee Chairman Peter Lucido, a Republican from Macomb County’s Shelby Township, said it is “not logical” to treat 17-year-old defendants as adults when they are defined as minors in so many other parts of state law.

“You’ve got to give that youth a chance when they make a mistake, with services that are available,” said Lucido, a former probation officer. “In the adult system, it’s a punitive system in nature. You’ll ultimately reduce recidivism by doing what we’re doing.”

Prosecutors could still automatically try 14-, 15-, 16- and 17-year-olds as adults for certain violent offenses, such as murder and rape. As part of the agreement, senators kept intact the ability for juveniles convicted as adults to be housed in adult prisons and jails if they are physically separated from older inmates.

The Legislature could send the measures to Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in coming weeks.

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