Texas is one of the few states that requires a 17-year-old person to be tried as an adult in the state’s criminal justice system. Most states designate 18 as the age of adulthood for purposes of prosecution in the adult court. Of course, young people under 18 are always subject to being prosecuted as an adult if they are charged with violent offenses, such as murder.
Recently, the Texas Legislature has been contemplating a new law that will modernize the state’s rules and raise the age of adulthood, for purposes of adult prosecution, to 18. In fact, such a measure was voted positively out of the Texas House and is now being considered by the Senate. One of the arguments in favor of the change is made by comparing the crimes of 17-year-old kids and those of 16-year-old children. It has been found that the nature of the offenses are very similar and yet 17-year-olds are punished more severely.
One of the stumbling blocks is that some legislators are not happy with the financial costs of making the transformation. Opponents of that position say that the long-term cost of not giving children a chance to reform themselves is much more drastic. They also argue that it is the right thing to do by giving kids a chance in life.
Under the bill, 17-year-olds charged with heinous crimes and violent offenses can still be certified over to adult court. That procedure is consistent with how it works in most states today, and it would bring Texas generally into the mainstream of criminal law jurisprudence on that issue. The bill would serve the purpose of eliminating adult criminal records for people charged with misdemeanors and drug offenses when they were only 17. Some detractors of the bill believe that the juvenile facilities are so inferior and run-down that improvement will have to be made prior to passing a law that may flood those detention centers with thousands more juveniles.
Source: houstonpress.com, “The Raise The Age Bill Passed the House. Will it Survive the Senate?“, Meagan Flynn, April 21, 2017