Governor signs Proos’ bill to put youth back on track

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New law expands use of informal hearings in the juvenile justice system

Senator John Proos

Senator John Proos

LANSING, Mich. — Gov. Rick Snyder on Tuesday signed Sen. John Proos’ legislation allowing judges to treat more juvenile cases in informal proceedings and to find more age-appropriate penalties for young offenders.

“With the signing of this bill and allowing an increased use of diversion opportunities for juveniles in the criminal justice system, Michigan judges will be better able to appropriately punish young offenders while also helping them become successful members of their communities,” said Proos, R-St. Joseph.

The Michigan juvenile justice system allows those under 17 years old to keep an alleged commission of an offense off of a public record by having the judge put a case on the “consent calendar” if the judge, prosecutor and defense all agree that protective and supportive action by the court would serve the best interests of the juvenile and the community.

Senate Bill 251, now Public Act 185 of 2016, lays out guidelines for a juvenile consent calendar, an informal probation or treatment plan that is usually reserved for first-time offenders or low-risk offenders. It also gives judges the flexibility to find more age-appropriate penalties for young offenders that could enhance and expedite rehabilitation.

“This is the first of the Senate’s criminal justice reforms — designed on focusing our prison and judicial systems on rehabilitation,” Proos said. “This reform idea came from Southwest Michigan judges and will allow our state’s at-risk young people to pay their debt to society without the scar of a criminal record that limits their ability to get into college or get a good job.”

“Probate judges across the state and I are extremely excited that we now have a consent calendar in Michigan,” said Cass County Probate Judge Susan L. Dobrich. “Juvenile offenders will now be able to pay their debts to society without the necessity of adjudication. This is a win-win for everyone involved.”

Dobrich came to the Capitol earlier this year to tell House lawmakers about the benefits of Proos’ measure.

Under the new law:
• The juvenile; the parent, guardian or legal custodian; and the prosecutor have to consent to the calendar;
• The court can transfer a case from the formal calendar any time before disposition;
• The process must be fully compliant with the Crime Victim’s Rights Act and victim notification, if applicable;
• The consent calendar would be nonpublic with access limited to certain people; and
• Upon completion of the consent calendar plan, the court shall destroy all records of the proceedings and report the completion to the state police, who will keep a nonpublic record of the case.

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Editor’s note: Audio comments by Proos will be available on the senator’s website at www.SenatorJohnProos.com. Click on “Audio” under the Media Center tab.