Raise the Age

Did you know that U.S. is the only country that sets the age of criminal (adult) court jurisdiction under 18? Did you know in two states (NY & NC), children as young as 16 are always tried as adults in criminal court?

“Raising the age” refers to the movement to ensure that most youth who are less than 18 years old be tried in the juvenile court system rather than the adult court system. The age for juvenile court jurisdiction is below 18 in only 10 states across the country.
Juvenile Jurisdiction Map Img


According to The Campaign for Youth Justice, 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced or incarcerated as adults each year in the United States, the majority of them for non-violent offenses.

Illinois recently joined to “raise the age” of juvenile court jurisdiction. Until December 31, 2009, 17-year-olds were always tried as adults for any crime. In 2008, the Juvenile Justice Initiative successfully passed the Senate Bill 2275. The bill was signed into law, Public Act 95-1031, on February 10, 2009, which allowed 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors to be tried in juvenile court.

Further “raise the age” reform happened in 2013. The JJI successfully advocated for House Bill 2404 – a bill to extend juvenile court jurisdiction to include 17-year-olds charged with felonies  – and urged then-Gov. Quinn to sign it into law, Public Act 098-0061 . Effective on January 1, 2014, the PA 098-0061 amended the definition of delinquent minor in the Juvenile Court Act to include a person who was under 18 years of age when he/she committed an alleged felony offense

“This change brings Illinois in line with 38 other states – and the rest of the world – who all recognize that seventeen year olds deserve the protections and the treatment solely available in the juvenile court in order to prevent reoffending.”


  • Click here to read JJI’s fact sheet on HB2404 and some supporting documents.
  • Click here for JJI’s factsheet on SB2275.
  • The Ottawa Times wrote about HB2404 here.
  • Read the Northwest Herald story here.
  • JJI President Elizabeth Clarke’s testimony to the Wisconsin Legislature in favor of raising the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to 18 from September, 2005.