Arizona Bill Seeks to Shield Oldest Juveniles from Adult Charges

A  bill in Arizona aims to reduce the number of juveniles who are charged as adults while also allowing youth offenders to remain in rehabilitative and other programs until they turn 19.

House Bill 2356, according to a fact sheet issued by the Children’s Action Alliance (CAA), “allows the juvenile court to retain jurisdiction over a juvenile who is at least 17 years old and who has been adjudicated delinquent until the person reaches 19 years old. This bill will prevent many older youths with less serious offenses from being prosecuted as adults in the criminal justice system.”

“Currently youth cannot be kept on probation or in the state’s Department of Juvenile Correction beyond the age of 18,” said Beth Rosenberg, director of child welfare and juvenile justice for CAA, in an email to The Chronicle of Social Change.

There is a rarely used provision that a youth could be kept on probation for treatment purposes beyond the age of 18, if all parties are in agreement. But, Rosenberg says, this has been used in just a handful of cases over the last 20 years.

Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections’ (ADJC) annual report for 2016 shows that turning 18 was the reason for discharge of 77 percent of youth in the state. Transfer to adult jurisdiction was just over 8 percent, and 3 percent were discharged to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.

HB 2356 could also increase the likelihood that charges will be filed against 17-year-olds while they are minors – especially those who are 17 and 6 months or older, according to Rosenberg, rather than prosecutors “holding to file” charges until the youth turns 18.

Waiting until a youth turns 18 means the youth is tried in adult court, even though the act was committed before their 18th birthday. Maricopa County prosecutors believe there were 200 cases last year that they may have filed in the juvenile system if HB 2356 had been in place, Rosenberg said.

ADJC data show that, in 2016, 17-year-olds made up 41.5 percent of youth entering Arizona’s juvenile system. Those youth who were 17 and 6 months or older made up 13.8 percent.

The types of charges include felonies and misdemeanors that are under the jurisdiction of the superior court, Rosenberg said, and would exclude those felonies that require a youth aged 15 and older to be prosecuted as an adult.

Arizona’s juvenile arrests overall declined by 54 percent from 2004 to 2014. As of January 2018, 173 youth were under ADJC’s watch in secure care facilities; another 168 were under agency-monitored community supervision.

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Christie Renick
About Christie Renick 114 Articles
Tucson-based Southwest Editor for The Chronicle of Social Change. Follow @christiejrenick.

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