About six months ago the Massachusetts Legislature passed a law raising the age for adult prosecutions from seventeen to eighteen. The law had prospective application. There is however one school of thought that this law applies to cases that were pending at the time the law went into effect. Thus, a seventeen year old charged in adult court whose case was pending when the law passed could possibly have his case dismissed upon request. This is exactly what happened earlier this week when a Lowell criminal defense lawyer asked the judge to dismiss a breaking and entering case against her client. The crime was committed in July 2013. At that time the defendant was seventeen years old. He is now eighteen. The law became effective on September 18, 2013.
What Exactly Is The New Massachusetts Juvenile Age Rule?
The question has been asked regularly since the passage of Chapter 84 of the Acts of 2013. Judges are struggling with aspects of the law and the treatment of defendants from court to court is not uniform. The act itself merely strikes the figure “17” and inserts in its place the figure “18” throughout many of the provisions of the Massachusetts General Laws. The Massachusetts Juvenile Bar Association Journal is more specific in identifying its interpretation of the law. In a September 2013 post it concluded that seventeen year olds charged as adults prior to the passage of the law would continue to be prosecuted as adults. The article also suggests that crimes committed prior to the enactment date but charged after would still be prosecuted in adult court. Anything else would result in a juvenile prosecution. Obviously, this is not how all Massachusetts judges are handling these cases. Some are following this model. Others, such as the judge in Lowell are dismissing cases where the defendant was seventeen at the time of the act. Still other judges are only dismissing cases where the defendant was seventeen at the time of the commission of the crime but not charged until after the act passed. The lack of uniformity is going to be resolved in the Supreme Judicial Court.
What Should I Do If I Was Seventeen At The Time Of The Crime But I Was Prosecuted As An Adult?
This is where you will be best served by having a good, experience lawyer. Your lawyer should be familiar with this law. He should be aware of how certain judges are handling these cases in the court where you are being prosecuted. He should file a motion to dismiss. This should be based on a legitimate, solid interpretation of the new law as well as the history of dismissals by other judges handling cases with similar issues. Keep fighting. There is a big difference between an adult conviction and a juvenile adjudication. The difference can have life altering consequences.
The Law Offices of Stephen Neyman, PC is committed to defending the accused. We have successfully had cases like these dismissed on jurisdictional grounds as well as on the merits. Call us at 617-263-6800 or send us an email.