Bukowsky: Raise the Age!


Currently, Missouri is one of only five states that sends all 17-year-olds accused of a crime to the adult criminal justice system.

When 17-year-olds are arrested in Missouri, they are treated as adults and no one is required to inform their parents of their arrest. While in their junior year of high school, these kids can (and do) go to court, plead guilty, and get an adult criminal record – all without telling their parents.

Missouri makes it harder for teens to grow into successful adults by automatically sending 17-year-olds into the adult criminal justice system. And Missouri teens – unlike their counterparts in surrounding states and throughout most of the country –  are given adult criminal records. This can handicap these kids for life – preventing them from joining the military, going to school, gaining employment, or obtaining an occupational license.

Raising the age of criminal responsibility would start kids off in the juvenile system, and allow judges to transfer those with the most violent offenses to the adult system.

During the 2017 Missouri Legislative session, “Raise the Age” was unanimously approved by a voice vote in the Missouri House. Since then:

  • Missouri State University economics Professor David Mitchell studied the fiscal impact of the Raise the Age bill and found that it would result in a net benefit to our State of $48.5 million annually once fully implemented.
    • This finding is consistent with similar studies in Texas and North Carolina concluding that raising the age of juvenile jurisdiction would have a net annual benefit to those states of $88.9 million and $52.3 million, respectively.
  • The Show-Me Institute added Raise the Age to its 2018 Blueprint: Moving Missouri Forward
  • North Carolina and New York both enacted Raise the Age. And the other four besides MO who have not yet raised the age (TX, GA, MI, WI), are working on doing so now.
Source: Show-Me Institute 2018 Blueprint

Seventeen-year-olds tend to make some dumb decisions. That’s why they don’t get to vote, buy cigarettes, enter into contracts, serve in the military, get married without parental consent, and why it’s illegal to abuse and neglect them. They are still children. And it is in the best interest of our state and in the best interest of those children to give them the benefit of the services of our juvenile justice system.

Newt Gingrich wrote an Op-Ed in the St. Louis Post Dispatch in support of Missouri raising the age two years ago. He’s smart. It’s time to listen to him. Pass this bill.



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Jennifer Bukowsky is a constitutional and criminal defense attorney in Columbia, Missouri. She is also a regular Missouri Times columnist and a weekly guest on the Gary Nolan Show. She serves on the Missouri Supreme Court’s Task Force on Criminal Justice, on the Board of Directors of the Show-Me Institute, and on the Steering Committee of the Federalist Society–Jefferson City Lawyers Chapter.  Jennifer defended a client who was found “not guilty” of murder – the only “not guilty” on a Boone County murder in over 50 years. She also won the release of a man who was wrongfully convicted and served over 20 years – since age 14 – for a murder he did not commit. Jennifer has received numerous awards for her skills as a trial and appellate attorney.  Jennifer was a Trump delegate at the RNC in 2016. She previously served as an adjunct professor of law for the University of Missouri, and as the youngest-ever President of the Boone County Bar Association.  Jennifer received a J.D. with highest honors from the University of Missouri School of Law. She is also a CPA.