17-year-olds may soon no longer be tried as adults in every criminal case

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo 17 year olds in Missouri may no longer be automatically tried as adults in every criminal case.
It's part of a bill just approved by Missouri lawmakers. It is senate bill 793, and would raise the age of criminal responsibility from 17 to 18. It would place 17 year olds who are charged with a crime in the juvenile justice system unless they are certified as an adult by a judge.

"17 in Missouri was kind of a no mans land, you were old enough to be tried as an adult but not old enough to buy a car, not old enough to rent an apartment. There were a lot of adult things you weren't able to do." said Bill Prince.

Bill Prince is the chief juvenile officer with the Greene County Juvenile Justice Center and says that trying 17 year olds as adults always felt artificial.

"When you are sixteen and your record is closed and you are treated as a juvenile and given a lot of treatment, and then to artificially say now you are 17, you are going to jail, you are going to go to prison. You are probably not going to receive a lot of rehabilitative services, that just never really sat well with me." said Prince.

A judge can still certify a 17 year old as an adult based on their criminal history and nature of the crime.

Those we talked have mixed thoughts.

"They should be tried as an adult because at 17 you pretty much know what you are doing, you know right from wrong." said Damien Spencer.

"I think that everybody in a criminal situation should be tried as adults over the age of 18 because at the age of 17 your brain is not matured quite enough I don't think." said Kristen Taylor.

And if 17 year olds are soon placed in the juvenile justice system...

"It could potentially be 800 or more kids a year that we get referrals on." said Prince.