top of page

Lawmakers in Louisiana Propose Treating 17-Year-Old Offenders as Adults

State Senator Heather Cloud (R-Ville Platte) advocates for tougher penalties for 17-year-olds involved in crime during a session at the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice, Feb. 26. West Baton Rouge District Attorney Tony Clayton supports the initiative, highlighting its potential to deter youth crime.
State Senator Heather Cloud (R-Ville Platte) advocates for tougher penalties for 17-year-olds involved in crime during a session at the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice, Feb. 26. West Baton Rouge District Attorney Tony Clayton supports the initiative, highlighting its potential to deter youth crime.

BATON ROUGE, La. — State lawmakers in Louisiana are pushing forward with efforts to amend criminal justice reforms enacted in recent years, with a focus on charging 17-year-old offenders as adults in response to a surge in violent crime.


State Senator Heather Cloud (R-Ville Platte) is leading the initiative, advocating for harsher penalties for 17-year-olds involved in criminal activities. Addressing the House Committee on Administration of Criminal Justice on Monday, Feb. 26, Sen. Cloud underscored the urgency of the situation, stating, “The primary challenge confronting law enforcement, prosecutors, and judges is the escalation of violent juvenile crime. Those aged 17 or older who engage in criminal behavior will be held accountable under adult criminal jurisdiction.”


Supporters of the proposal argue that since the enactment of the "Raise the Age Act," which raised the age of criminal responsibility for juveniles, there has been a notable increase in juvenile crimes. They contend that adult criminals are exploiting the system by recruiting 17-year-olds to carry out illegal activities, knowing that lenient penalties could see them back on the streets swiftly.


West Baton Rouge District Attorney Tony Clayton voiced his support for the proposed legislation, emphasizing its potential impact on deterring criminal behavior among young offenders. “Passing this bill will send a clear message to 17-year-olds across the state that we are equipping law enforcement with the necessary tools to combat crime effectively,” stated Clayton.

However, concerns have been raised regarding the broad scope of the bill, with some advocating for a more targeted approach focusing solely on violent offenses to prevent non-violent offenders from being incarcerated alongside adults.

Representative Alonzo Knox (D-New Orleans) expressed reservations about the blanket application of the law, citing potential disparities in prosecution practices among district attorneys. “While I am supportive of addressing juvenile crime, I believe we must exercise caution in our approach. A one-size-fits-all policy may not be the most effective solution,” remarked Rep. Knox.

Legal experts have also highlighted potential legal challenges, particularly regarding the transfer of 17-year-olds between juvenile and adult courts. Meghan Garvey, a public defender from New Orleans, emphasized the constraints imposed by existing laws, stating, “Under current legislation, individuals aged 17 and older are considered adults for the purposes of prosecution. This law does not afford district attorneys the discretion to transfer a 17-year-old back to juvenile court once adult criminal jurisdiction has been invoked.”


Despite these concerns, the House committee remains steadfast in its support for the legislation, particularly after viewing compelling evidence presented by DA Clayton, including videos depicting young offenders boasting about their criminal activities.

11 views0 comments

Comments


bottom of page