2012 Juvenile Justice State Legislation

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Juvenile Justice State Legislation State juvenile justice legislation in 2012 focused on conditions of a juvenile’s confinement, detention reform, treating juveniles different than adults and expungement of juvenile records.  

Areas of Focus

Conditions of Juvenile Confinement

Three states enacted legislation relating to restraints and conditions of juvenile confinement. Arizona and Florida passed laws prohibiting juvenile facilities and correctional institutions from restraining pregnant incarcerated women. Arizona’s law prohibits restraint use for women who are being transported for delivery, during labor or for postpartum recovery. Florida’s new law prohibits leg, ankle or waist restraints in the third trimester unless there are significant security risks. Pennsylvania now requires restraints such as handcuffs, chains, or shackles to be removed from juveniles prior to any court proceeding. The measure provides exceptions for possible flight risks and disruptive behavior.

Detention Reform

Nebraska and New York enacted legislation in 2012 aimed to provide meaningful alternatives to detention. Nebraska established the “Juvenile Service Delivery Project” as a pilot program to prevent unnecessary commitment of juveniles and to enable young offenders’ needs to be met in the least restrictive manner. The program provides many community-based alternatives to incarceration. Similarly, New York’s “Close to Home Initiative” allows low-level juvenile offenders to be placed in residential facilities closer to their homes, instead of in secure facilities hundreds of miles away. 

In 2012, Ohio enacted sweeping changes to its juvenile justice policies that covered conditions of confinement, sentencing and the sealing of records. The legislation creates a presumption that young adults up to age 21 who are sent to adult court, or who turn 18 while under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction, should be placed in juvenile, rather than adult detention facilities. The law also reduces the waiting time for youth records to be sealed in order to help non-violent ex-offenders reenter school and the workforce. Ohio also now allows youth sentenced to correction facilities to receive full credit for time served and to have their sentenced reduced for any time served while confined in juvenile court.

Treating Juveniles Different Than Adults

States also concentrated on distinguishing juvenile offenders from adults. Michigan became the 16th state to pass statutory juvenile competency standards to ensure that youth understand the court process and make reasonable decisions regarding their cases. Colorado law now prohibits prosecutors from directly filing adult charges against a juvenile accused of low- and mid-level felonies. The law also requires defendants ages 15 and younger to start in the juvenile court system, no matter the charges. Judges must decide whether 16- and 17-year-old defendants will be tried in adult or juvenile court after weighing the seriousness of the offense, the probability of rehabilitation and other factors.

Sealing/Expungement of Juvenile Records

In 2012, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Louisiana,  Ohio, Oregon, Vermont and  Washington passed legislation to help victims of sex trafficking—who often are juveniles—re-enter society by vacating or expunging prostitution charges. Hawaii’s new law, for example, allows sex trafficking victims to vacate prostitution convictions if they file a motion to the court and prove they were trafficking victims. Michigan passed legislation allowing juveniles to petition for record expungement of up to three offenses after one year, increasing it from one offense after five years.

Appendix - List of 2012 Laws by State

Conditions of Confinement
Arizona SB 1184, Florida SB 524, Pennsylvania SB8 17
Detention Reform 
Nebraska LB 985, New York AB 9057, Ohio SB 337
Treating Children Different than Adults
(2011) Michigan HB 4555, Colorado HB 1271

Sealing/Expungement of Records
California AB 2040, Colorado HB 1151, Hawaii SB 2576, Louisiana HB 49,  Ohio HB 262, Oregon HB 4146, Vermont SB 122, Washington SB 6255, Michigan HB 5600