House Bill 1208: Who Decides to Charge as a Juvenile or Adult


Who should decide if a juvenile should be charged as an adult? The District Attorney or a Judge? That's the debate at the State Capitol.

A House bill passed Friday afternoon would require judges to review decisions by district attorneys to prosecute 14 and 15 year olds as adults.

In an email to Representative Bernie Buesher, a local defense attorney encourages him to give his approval for the bill, stating that any opposition is an unfounded, unreasonable, and untrue belief that prosecutors don't abuse their discretion. This defense attorney says they can and they do.

District Attorney Pete Hautzinger says he doesn't abuse his power. "I had the power to direct file against 73 juveniles over the last three years. Of those only one went to prison. In my mind that defines using discretion and trying to do the right thing..."

Cheyenne Corbett gave birth to a baby in the shower of her parents home and then wrapped the infant in a towel and left her to die inside of an entertainment center. She was sentenced to 16 years in prison. Only eight other juveniles faced charges as adults. These teens committed crimes like murder, stealing automatic weapons and rape.

Supporters of the bill say that because district attorneys are elected officials, they are under public pressure to look tough on crime.

House Bill 1208 would also allow children to have a separate hearing to determine if prosecution as an adult is justified.

Opponents of the bill say that there is no evidence to show that a judge would treat a case any differently than a district attorney.

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