Legislature OKs bill to keep more juvenile offenders out of adult court

Chicago Tribune

June 1, 2015

State lawmakers on Sunday passed a bill that would reduce the number of juveniles automatically transferred to adult court. At issue was not whether juveniles can be tried as adults. Rather, it’s whether a juvenile defendant should be allowed a hearing in front of a juvenile court judge who would consider factors such as background, mental capacity and culpability before deciding whether to send the youth to adult court.

The bill, now awaiting Gov. Bruce Rauner’s signature, eliminates the automatic transfer to adult court of 15-year-olds accused of any crime, no matter how serious. For 16- and 17-year-olds, only those charged with murder, aggravated criminal sexual assault and aggravated battery with a firearm would automatically be sent to adult court.

If signed into law, the measure would reduce by more than half the number of juvenile offenders in Cook County who are automatically sent to adult court, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said in a news release. She championed the new legislation and decried the current law’s “disproportionate impact” on minorities.