17 year olds who commit felonies could be tried in juvenile court

Apr 17, 2013

Seventeen-year-olds accused of committing felonies would be tried in juvenile court under a measure approved Tuesday in the Illinois House. IPR’S Brian Mackey has more. 

For a few years, 17-year-olds charged with less-serious crimes have been sent to juvenile court where they're much more likely to get treatment, counseling and education. Those charged with felonies were sent to the same courtrooms as adults, and thus faced the possibility of hard time in prison. Democratic Majority Leader Barbara Flynn Currie says that second group of kids are 38 percent more likely to "return to a life of crime."

"So I think there's a lot to be said for making sure that young people are given the behavioral help they need ... that may turn them away from deciding to do the same bad thing all over again."

Currie's proposal would send 17-year-olds charged with all but the most serious crimes to juvenile court. Republican Rep. Dennis Reboletti, of Elmhurst, says he'd rather go the other way -- treating all 17-year-olds as adults.

"As soon as this bill passes, gangs will now use 17-year-olds to do more of the dirty work [that] they couldn't do before."

Despite that warning, legislators approved the measure by a vote of 89-26.