Gov. Deval Patrick signed legislation on Wednesday that means 17-year-olds will now be treated as juveniles in the Massachusetts criminal justice system.
Massachusetts became the 39th state to classify people under the age of 18 as juveniles, reported MassLive. Previously, 17-year-olds were tried as adults.
Under the new law, 17-year-olds who are arrested will face a juvenile court judge. That judge can still impose an adult sentence for certain more serious crimes.
In addition, 17-year-olds will be under the custody of the state Department of Youth Services rather than being sent to an adult prison or jail.
“This is more than just common sense; this is an important and much-needed change that ensures 17-year-olds are placed in a more effective rehabilitative setting,” said Massachusetts Bar Association Chief Legal Counsel and Chief Operating Officer Martin W. Healy.
The MBA said the new law aligns “with virtually every other area of law in Massachusetts that sets 18 as the age of adulthood. The age of 18 is required for voting, entering into legally binding contracts and jury service.”