New law expands juvenile justice system jurisdiction

Issue October 2013

Gov. Deval L. Patrick has signed into law Massachusetts Bar Association-backed legislation, which raises the age of juvenile court jurisdiction from 17 to 18 years old. The law, initially filed as House Bill No. 1432, received unanimous approval from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

"The Massachusetts Bar Association commends the governor, the House of Representatives and the Senate for rectifying the inequity of treating 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the crime or circumstances surrounding their arrests," MBA Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy said. "This is more than just common sense; this is an important and much-needed change that ensures 17-year-olds are placed in a more effective rehabilitative setting."

Over the past few months the MBA had pushed strongly for this change in Juvenile Court jurisdiction, because it allows the commonwealth's youngest offenders the opportunity to become productive and successful citizens through the rehabilitative nature of the Juvenile Court.

The new law segregates young offenders from the adult criminal system, which will prevent juveniles who are sentenced from being mixed with older and hardened serious offenders. The new law also protects 17-year-olds by bringing them under the juvenile system's procedural safeguards, which were not available when they were treated as an adult.