Governor signs juvenile justice legislation

Thursday, Aug. 1, 2013
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In April 2013, MBA Secretary Martha Rush O’Mara joined Joshua Dohan, director of the Youth Advocacy Division at CPCS, to testify in favor of House Bill 1432.

On Tuesday, July 30, the Senate unanimously passed Massachusetts Bar Association-backed legislation to expand the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system to include 17-year-olds.

The House of Representatives unanimously approved the bill in May.

"This legislation allows the commonwealth's youngest offenders the opportunity to get back on track, through the rehabilitative nature of the Juvenile Court, to become productive and successful citizens," said MBA President Robert L. Holloway Jr.

Currently, 17-year-olds who are accused of a crime are held in jail with adults and tried in adult court. The commonwealth, in virtually every other area of law, sets 18 as the age of adulthood. There is no parental notification requirement regardless of the severity of the crime.

The age of 18 is required for voting, entering into legally binding contracts and jury service. However, when a 17-year-old is arrested, police can interrogate the teen without a parent present. And 17-year-old arrestees can waive their Miranda rights and enter into plea bargains without parental advice or knowledge, thereby making a decision which has a lifetime of serious societal consequences for the juvenile, by producing a permanent adult record.

Segregating young offenders from the adult criminal system will prevent juveniles, who are sentenced, from being mixed with older and hardened serious offenders. Research proves juveniles are more likely to re-offend when they are exposed to that negative environment.

The bill now heads to the desk of Gov. Deval L. Patrick for signature. To read the bill click here.