17-year-olds no longer considered adults through Missouri Court System

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JOPLIN, MO — There’s a change in Missouri involving juveniles. Specifically, the age at which some are considered juveniles.

The way a 17-year-old gets processed through the Missouri Court System changed just recently.

“So depending upon what the offense was, if they committed a felony, for example, would have been processed through the the county jail. This time, if they were to commit a felony, they would be processed through the juvenile court and go to juvenile detention,” said Eric Theis, Jasper County Court Administrator.

A measure making that change was signed into law by former Gov. Eric Greitens back in 2018.

It couldn’t be implemented until Gov. Mike Parson signed two other bills into law on June 30 of this year to create funding for 17-year-old juveniles in the justice system.

Prior to this law taking effect earlier this month, Missouri was just one of a handful of states that didn’t already consider 17-year-olds juveniles.

Although the change may lead to an increase in the number of people coming into the juvenile system, Theis thinks it’s probably better for everyone on both sides because they may have a better chance to turn their lives around.

“The juvenile system provides more services than the adult system, right, and so that’s going to be a benefit. We can get them into counseling. We can get them into family services and those types of things that the adult system doesn’t necessarily do. So from that perspective, I think it’s a good thing,” Theis said.

One thing the new law won’t change is the ability of prosecutors to try and have 17-year-olds, or even younger, to be tried as adults when it comes to the most serious of felonies.

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