A bill mandating tougher penalties for juvenile defendants, including allowing 12-year-olds to be waived to adult court for attempted murder, is scheduled to be heard in a legislative committee Tuesday, but already strong opposition is mounting with both state and national organizations warning of the consequences.
Senate Bill 449 is one of seven bills listed on the agenda of the Senate Committee on Corrections and Criminal Law. The measure not only lowers the age to 12 for which juveniles charged with attempted murder can be tried as an adult but also adds attempting to commit a serious offense, like kidnapping, rape and armed robbery, that certain juveniles can be charged as adults.
Sen. Erin Houchin, R-Salem, authored SB 449. It is similar to SB 279, the bill she authored and introduced in the 2019 session of the Indiana General Assembly which would have lowered the wavier age to 12 for attempted murder. That measure passed through the Senate on a 45-to-3 vote but stalled in the House Committee on Courts and Criminal Code. Houchin then tried unsuccessfully to amend this provision onto another bill.
The legislation introduced last year came in the wake of the Noblesville West Middle School shooting, in which a 13-year-old was arrested after a shooting that injured a student and teacher. The boy was sent to juvenile detention but could not be waived to adult court under state law.
The Children’s Policy and Law Initiative is among the groups opposing the SB 449. Pointing out that laws prohibit children from getting married, drinking alcohol or getting a tattoo because they are immature and cannot appreciate the consequences of their actions, CPLI asserts placing youths into the adult criminal justice system denies them the opportunity for rehabilitation and treatment.
Children placed in the adult system are likelier to be physically and sexually abused, according to CPLI. Also, when they are released, they are likelier to be rearrested and charged with committing more dangerous crimes.
The Senate committee is expected to hear the SB 449 at 9 a.m. in Room 130 of the Statehouse. It will also be considering a handful of amendments to the bill that would give juvenile courts discretion in waiving juveniles charged with attempted murder to adult court and would assign some of the provisions to a legislative study committee for further consideration.