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Thursday 22nd of August 2019

Press Room

Law reforms in Washington state expand juvenile jurisdiction and the use of diversion

Monday 23rd of April 2018
Juvenile Justice in the world

Senate Bills 6160 and 6550 passed last March in Washington state represent yet another step in the United States’ recent efforts towards expanding the jurisdiction of the juvenile justice system, as well as adding broader options for the use of diversion. 

With the passing of Senate Bill 6160, 16 and 17 year olds who have been charged with certain serious violent offences, such as first-degree robbery, drive-by shooting and first-degree burglary, will no longer enter the adult criminal justice system. In addition, juvenile jurisdiction for these crimes has been extended from 21 to 25 years of age, if the crime was committed before the age of 18.

Senate Bill 6160 rolls back the 1997 amendment regarding auto-decline offences. An auto-decline offence means that the juvenile system automatically declines its jurisdiction over a person under 18 and the case is filed in adult court, such as was the case with the three mentioned above. This new law thus further limits the number of crimes committed by young people which would send them automatically to adult courts in Washington state.

Although the new law increases sentences for the crimes mentioned, called A++ offences, young offenders will be always dealt by juvenile justice services and juvenile facilities, never by those in the adult justice jurisdiction, with the exception of first-degree child rape. Therefore, this will give them the opportunity to engage in tailored programmes for young people, in order to facilitate their rehabilitation.

Meanwhile, Senate Bill 6550 revises Washington state’s Juvenile Justice Act of 1977, which offered very narrow parameters for which offenses could be diverted out of juvenile court. It broadens the types of offences in which it is encouraged for prosecutors to direct young offenders to diversion services.

The new law also adds community-based restorative justice programmes to the list of accepted diversion services. Previously, options were limited to mediation and victim-offender reconciliation programmes.

  • International Juvenile Justice Observatory (IJJO). Belgian Public Utility Foundation

    All rights reserved

  • Head Office: Rue Mercelis, nº 50. 1050. Brussels. Belgium

    Phone: 00 32 262 988 90. Fax: 00 32 262 988 99. oijj@oijj.org

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