Bill would push 17-year-olds to juvenile court system

A House Republican will again this year propose that Missouri increase the age at which young offenders can be tried in Missouri’s adult courts.

Representative Nick Schroer (photo; Tim Bommel, Missouri House Communications)

17-year-olds can be prosecuted in adult courts.  O’Fallon Representative Nick Schroer wants to “raise the age” to 18.  He said the bill has broad, bipartisan support.

“In the state of Missouri you have to be 18 to enter into a contract without parental consent.  You have to be 18 to buy cigarettes, you have to be 18 to join the military, buy a lottery ticket, or even vote.  You even have to be 21 to purchase or consume alcohol in our state,” said Schroer, “but there is one place where juveniles are still treated as adults – in our courtrooms.”

Schroer on Friday pre-filed House Bill 1255, which mirrors House Bill 274 from the 2017 session.  He said by passing it and increasing that age to 18, Missouri would save money by reducing recidivism; would allow more offenders to use the resources of the juvenile justice system to hold them accountable and rehabilitate them; and would strengthen Missouri’s workforce and economy by keeping 17 year-olds from having criminal records.

Schroer said his bill would also protect the rights of Missouri parents.

“When a 17-year-old is arrested currently, parents are excluded from being informed of what is going on.  They do not have a right to be involved in the interrogation, they do not have a right to be involved in the court process,” said Schroer.

One of the hang-ups of past “raise the age” legislation has been the projected cost to Missouri.  Schroer said those estimates have been inaccurate.  He said in the 45 states that have passed similar laws, their projections of cost were also high but once the laws were in place, the actual costs were far lower and some states saved money.

“That is why I am happy to announce that with the many different fiscal notes that were associated with this bill in 2017, I am reaching out to Missouri State University to take a look at what the true economic impact of this legislation would be,” said Schroer.  “I am confident that once this report is done that it will show what the 45 other states have shown – that raise the age legislation reduces crime, saves taxpayer dollars, and keeps Missourians safe.”

Schroer said it should be a goal to keep young people out of Missouri’s adult court and prison system.

“When you put a young person, with their brain still developing, you put them in a system where they’re going to learn the traits in the adult system … they’re going to learn how to scheme, the ways of the criminal, so-to-speak,” said Schroer.  “When they come out with a criminal record, it’s hard for them to get a job; it’s hard for them to make ends meet.  When their back’s against the wall they’re going to go to what they know.  In these situations a lot of these kids that have been put through the adult system what they know is how to commit crime.”

Schroer said his legislation would allow minors who have committed heinous or repeated offenses to be certified as an adult.

HB 1255 is one of 13 bills Schroer filed today, and one of hundreds pre-filed for the 2018 legislative session which begins January 3.