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Michigan Raise the Age Legislation is Now in Effect

The lights come up on the capital building in Lansing.

A Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney Provides the Details

On Oct. 1, 2021, Michigan criminal courts officially stopped charging 17-year-old minors as adults.

Signed and approved in 2019, "Raise the Age" officially went into effect the first day of October. The law has support from many corners — the GOP, Democrats, many criminal defense lawyers, and prosecutors.

Raise the Age is a national effort to change the age of who is considered an adult under the criminal justice system from 17 to 18 years old. In Michigan, a person is more or less considered an adult at age 18, but up until recently 17-year-old minors were often automatically charged as adults in criminal court.

The new law is expected to reduce the number of young people tried as adults from 76,000 to 40,000, says Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Over the last several years, Michigan emphasized updates to its juvenile justice system. In January, Michigan enacted a series of bills called The Clean Slate for Kids package, which makes juvenile records nonpublic and amends the current set aside application process, and launches an automatic set aside in 2023.

Juvenile, Adult Justice Systems

For justice to be served, it is important that people accused of crimes are treated fairly. Young minors do not have the mental development to be tried as adults.

When a minor is treated like an adult without the benefit of actually being one, they are at higher risk of being interrogated by police without an attorney present, admitting guilt without fully understanding the consequences, or giving up important rights.

What minors do have is the ability to change. Studies show that 17-year-olds have the capacity for change necessary to turn their lives around after a brush with the law. But they need to be given opportunities and support — not early entry into a punitive adult system.

Compared to the adult system, juvenile courts offer more rehabilitation services, educational opportunities, and sentences that are more restorative than punitive.

Are Juvenile Records Public?

When someone has a criminal record, even a juvenile one, it can have negative effects on many aspects of their lives. A record can keep you from gaining quality employment, obtaining professional licenses, going to school, getting adequate housing, and successfully applying for loans. This is what makes Clean Slate for Kids so important.

Juvenile court records that may be in your file include diversions, testimony, reports, pleadings, proceedings, written opinions, findings, orders, judgments, and social files like child welfare information. The Clean Slate law allows you to "set aside" adjudications (convictions).

When an adjudication is set aside the person is considered not to have been previously convicted, except the person may still have to pay fines or fees associated with the case and the set aside does not affect the right of a victim of an offense to prosecute or defend a civil action for damages.

When the Clean Slate for Kids law takes full effect in 2023, some juvenile records will be automatically sealed. Qualifying adjudication will be set aside two years after the termination of court supervision or when you turn 18, whichever is later.

Even though specific records will be sealed, copies that can be accessed by you, law enforcement, the court system, and people with "legitimate" interests will be maintained by the Michigan State Police (MSP). It is also worth noting that a traffic offense set aside on your juvenile criminal record will not necessarily be removed from your driving record.

Criminal Defense Attorneys Serving Michigan

Michigan is making changes to reduce the impact youthful mistakes have on other parts of adult life, but far more work needs to be done.

If you are facing charges in Michigan or suspect charges will be filed against you, you should talk to an attorney about your legal rights and options.

In all matters of Michigan criminal defense, Manley & Manley can help. Together, Michael Manley and Frank Manley have over 7 decades of combined experience practicing criminal defense law in Flint and across the state.

Find out how we can help you. Contact us today for a free case evaluation with an experienced Michigan criminal defense lawyer.

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