Texas Bill Aims to Get 17 Year Olds Out of Adult Justice System

criminal responsibility

In Texas, anyone 17 years old or older is treated as an adult if they are accused of a crime.

However some Texas legislators are trying to change that. A bill made its way through the Texas legislature this session that would require a 17-year-old to treated as a juvenile when it comes to the criminal justice system, no matter how minor or severe the accusation may be.

Why keep 17 year olds out of the adult justice system?

Seventeen year olds can grow up

Young offenders are more likely overcome their bad behaviors when they are placed in a juvenile facility.

In other words, adult prison doesn’t help make juveniles into better citizens.

Teenagers also sometimes participate in reckless activities without an adult-like mentality.

Disparate Effect of a Criminal Record

A criminal record can have a much more severe impact on a 17 year old’s life than an older person’s life.

Having an adult criminal record creates barriers to obtaining the following:

  • Education
  • Employment
  • Housing
  • Military work/status

Basically, why punish these teenagers with a potentially life-long criminal record for activities that they participated in their youth?

Adult-like things are already hard enough for a person with a clean record.

So imagine being weighed down from a reckless mistake you made years ago when you were still a teenager.

And unless you have a good lawyer, clearing a criminal record is no easy task.

Older people are usually much more established, they may have a job, already achieved their educational goals and have some savings to overcome the criminal conviction.

Parental Involvement

When teenagers 17 and under are arrested and tried as adults, the parents have no say in the court process.

Talk about having no power of your children.

Parents would be able to have more leverage over helping their 17-year-old kids become better adults if the bill ever passes.

Dangers to the Teenager

Housing 17 year old kids with adults is dangerous for the teenager. A seventeen year old should not be living with older men and women.

So what are the detractors saying?

Why would anyone want to keep 17 year olds in the adult system?


This bill could cost Texas $33,342,216.60. That’s a little short-sighted, however, as explained in detail below.

Where does all that money go to?

Well, it’s mainly divided into two categories:

  • Housing costs
  • Moving them from adult facilities to juvenile facilities

More juveniles occupying a facility means more beds for Texas to pay for.

Transportation costs are a factor as well since the State will have to pay for moving juveniles from adult prisons to juveniles centers.

Think About the Children

Moving 17-year-olds to juvenile facilities may not be so good for younger offenders.

For one thing, younger youths could look up to their older counterparts and potentially pick up on some bad habits. After all, these older counterparts generally serve as a role model for the youth who are our future for society.

Of course the problem is that the same seventeen year olds would be preyed upon in adult facilities.


Voice your opinion regarding this bill by contacting the Texas Legislature.

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Texas Bill Aims to Get 17 Year Olds Out of Adult Justice System – The Dallas Lawyer