Indiana lawmakers consider bill that would allow children as young as 12 to be tried as adults

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WXIN) — Children as young as 12 years old could be sentenced as adults if a new bill passes. Right now, the minimum age is 13.

The bill is in response to the Noblesville West Middle School shooting in 2018 when a 13-year-old boy shot his teacher and his classmate.

Senate Bill 449 would lower the age and also expand the list of crimes that could send a child to jails. The expanded list includes crimes like murder, attempted murder, rape, kidnapping and armed robbery.

Supporters of the bill say most children who commit crimes need to be treated and kept out of the adult court system, but there are rare cases when they need to be tried and sentenced as adults.

SB 449 also extends the amount of time a young offender can spend in juvenile court, giving the courts more jurisdiction. In some cases, a child can get up to six years — until they are 24 in some cases.

The bill recently passed in the Senate with several amendments, including establishing a review panel for two years that would study how the bill would impact young Hoosiers, particularly those of color. It would also look into the waiver of youthful offenders into the adult court system.

Those who oppose the bill do not believe the bill will benefit Hoosiers, lead to more crime, and put more children in the adult court system instead of treating them.

Supporters of the bill say in 99.9% of cases they would not need to sentence a child as an adult, but there are rare cases in which having the option would be beneficial.

The bill will be heard in the House. If it is passed into law, it would go into effect on July 1.

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