State lawmakers are considering raising the age for adult offenders from 17 to 18.
The Michigan House recently approved a 20-bill package that would define 17-year-olds as juveniles.
It would also prevent anyone under 18 from being held in adult jails or prisons.
Right now, 17-year-olds in Michigan are prosecuted and sentenced as adults.
But if this bill passes, it will impact jails across the state.
“There’s positives and negatives for the individuals and for the entities that have to make the changes,” said Benzie County Undersheriff Kyla Rosa.
Rosa says if Michigan’s adult criminal age rises from 17 to 18, counties might have to restructure jail funding.
Adults have to pay for their time in jail, but counties pay the burden for juvenile offenders.
“If the law were to change from 17 to 18, those 17-year-olds that would have otherwise been adults and footing the bill, if you will, now the county may have to pick up that slack.”
Rosa says this would require counties to restructure their budgets.
He says since 18 is an age marker for other activity like buying cigarettes, raising the age could help police with their duties.
“Some of the laws could be streamlined so that we don’t have to, as police officers, necessarily keep all those in check. How old is he? When is he going to be 18? When is he going to be 17?”
Attorney Craig Elhart in Traverse City isn’t sure how helpful the new law would be.
“If it’s a major felony — murder, CSC, any sort of major felony — most prosecuting attorneys are going to treat it as an adult crime and try to get the 17-year-old or 16-year-old vouchered up to adult courts," Elhart said.
Michigan is one of nine states where the default adult criminal age is 17.