On September 19, 2013 new legislation that raises the age of criminal responsibility in the Commonwealthof Massachusetts from 17 to 18 years of age was signed at 2:50 p.m. by Governor Patrick (Chapter 84 of the Acts of 2013). The bill was to take immediate effect, and the position of the trial court is that it was effective at 12:01 a.m. on the date of signing.
The bill expands the Juvenile Court’s jurisdiction by redefining the terms “delinquent child” and “youthful offender” to include children who are under the age of 18 (previously 17). Under the previous law, children charged with a crime committed when they were 17 years old would have been treated as adults and prosecuted in the District (or Boston Municipal) Court. Under the new law, their cases instead will be brought in the Juvenile Court.
As the new law will not be retroactive, the bill is only applicable to offenses committed by 17-year-olds after the date of enactment. The law in effect upon the date of the offense will be controlling:
* A 17-year-old individual charged prior to the effective date with committing an offense while under age 17 will remain in adult court;
* A 17-year-old individual charged after the effective date with committing an offense prior to the effective date will be prosecuted in adult court;
* Individuals charged after the effective date with committing an offense while under 18 will be prosecuted in the Juvenile Court if the alleged offense occurred after the effective date of the legislation; and
* Individuals charged after the effective date with committing an offense while under 18 and not apprehended until between their 18th and 19th birthdays shall be prosecuted in the Juvenile Court.
* (An exception to the above rule provides that juveniles between the ages of 14 and 18 who are accused of first or second degree murder will be treated as adults pursuant to G.L. c. 119, s. 74.)