For many years in Massachusetts 17-year-olds who were charged with committing crimes were charged in adult court. Now, with a recent law change, their cases will be heard in the Juvenile Court. Governor Deval Patrick signed the bill into law on September 18, 2013. The bill had bi-partisan support and even support from prosecutors. Massachusetts is now one of 39 states, and the federal government, which treats 17-year-olds as juveniles for purposes of criminal proceedings.
The District Attorney’s Offices may still choose to charge juveniles charged with certain crimes as “Youthful Offenders.” The youthful offender law gives a judge the power to sentence a juvenile (between the ages of 14 and 17) as an adult.