DC AG's bill would allow more 16, 17-year-olds to be tried as juveniles

A bill by D.C.’s Attorney General Karl Racine aimed at keeping 16 and 17-year-olds from being tried as adults is making its way through the D.C. Council.

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During a hearing on Thursday, witnesses and Racine explained that currently the U.S. Attorney’s Office can choose which juvenile cases out of the District they would like to try as adults without going through a judge.

The Redefinition of Child Amendment Act requires a judge to give case by case approval in hopes of allowing more 16 to 17-year-olds to be tried as juveniles. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson says it does not prevent them from being tried as adults.

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"It pertains only to four different crimes including homicide, rape, first degree burglary and armed robbery. Those are serious offenses no doubt about it. But where it gets prosecuted, juvenile court or adult court, a judge should decide," Mendelson said.

FOX 5 reached out to every D.C. councilmember asking whether or not they support the bill and only a handful responded including Councilman Robert White who says the legislation will prevent crime in the long run.

"What we also want is long term safety and the adult prison system is not designed to rehabilitate. So when adults come out of the prison system we want them to be better not to just have served a sentence. We want them to be better and more productive and that will make our city safer," White said.

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The bill has many families of victims of juvenile crimes upset.

FOX 5 spoke to Myracle Bell, whose fiancé was killed driving in northeast by teenagers speeding in what she says was a stolen vehicle.

"I can’t bring back my loved one. Never. If that person didn’t do what they did than another person wouldn’t be hurt or deceased. I just think it’s unfair," Bell said.

Recently, there’s been an uptick in some violent crimes committed by juveniles within the District but in his testimony, Racine said overall juvenile crime is down.