Friday, February 16, 2024

Kentucky passes bill to automatically transfer some juvenile offenders to adult court

Kentucky’s Senate passed a bill that would automatically transfer children charged with certain violent felonies to adult court, reported Jurist. The bill passed the chamber by a vote of 25-9.

Senate Bill 20 stated that children age fifteen or older charged with a “Class A, B, or C felony” will face trial as adults if a firearm was used in the “commission of the offense.” The classes of felonies cover offenses such as homicide, robbery, human trafficking and sexual offenses. Trial as an adult would proceed regardless of whether the firearm was functional or not.

The bill is intended to replace Chapter 132 of An Act Relating to Children, passed in 2021. Currently, judges and district attorneys have the discretion to transfer children charged with violent felonies involving forearms to adult court. Additionally, transfers, if found to be unwarranted, may be reversed. An amendment to Senate Bill 20 also allows unwarranted transfers to be reversed.

Senate Bill 20 was introduced by state Senator Matthew Deneen (R). Deneen stated during a Senate Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection Committee hearing that the bill was needed to combat a “spike” in violent crime. He also stated that the bill would advance the needs of “victims before perpetrators.” While violent crime spiked in the state during the COVID-19 pandemic, a report by the Kentucky State Police found that overall serious crime rates fell across the state in 2022.

The bill must now pass Kentucky’s Republican-controlled House of Representatives before going to Governor Andy Beshear (D) for signing. The measure is one of many criminal policy changes under consideration in the state.

Kentucky has the eighth-highest imprisonment rate in the US, according to The Sentencing Project. The state also has large racial disparities in its incarcerated population. A Prison Policy Initiative prison profile of the state registered Black residents imprisoned at rates nearly four times higher than white residents.

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