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Big Changes Coming to Michigan Criminal Law Based on Age

By Daniel T. Geherin

We have all heard the science behind the idea that young people’s brains take years to develop, often well into their early-20’s. That fact – coupled with concepts like peer pressure, hormones and substance abuse – often leads young people to commit foolish crimes and end up in Michigan’s Criminal Justice System. Unfortunately, once you get into the system, it’s hard to climb out—especially in terms of public conviction records and how they can affect you for the rest of your life.  

In America, almost 2,000 kids are arrested each day. Michigan's youth detention rate is one of the highest rates in the nation. In 2017, 30% of juveniles incarcerated in Michigan were detained for noncriminal offenses, almost double the national rate of 17%. In the same year, 1,260 Michigan children were in residential placement. In 2019, 26 children were in adult jails or prisons. 

Effective October 2021, two major changes are coming to Michigan criminal law that will certainly ease some of the impact on young offenders:

First, Michigan passed “Raise the Age” Legislation that ends automatic prosecution of 17-year-olds as adults.  All states allow children charged with certain offenses to be prosecuted as adults, but Michigan was one of the last few remaining states to automatically prosecute 17-years-olds as adults. Now, 17-year-olds will be considered minors when arrested and thus treated in the Juvenile Courts.  

Second, the Holmes Youthful Trainee Act (“HYTA) statute will expand its age limit to include individuals between the ages 18 and 26. The statute will soon read: “If an individual pleads guilty to a criminal offense, committed on or after the individual's eighteenth birthday but before his or her twenty-sixth birthday, the court of record having jurisdiction of the criminal offense may, without entering a judgment of conviction and with the consent of that individual, consider and assign that individual to the status of youthful trainee. If the offense was committed on or after the individual's twenty-first birthday but before his or her twenty-sixth birthday, the individual must not be assigned to youthful trainee status without the consent of the prosecuting attorney.” Under this act, an individual may petition the court for “status” as a Youthful Trainee for most felonies and misdemeanors. If an individual is granted this status, they can have their charge(s) dismissed following a period of probation, and thus avoid the stigma that comes with a criminal conviction on their record.

Geherin Law Group, PLLC (“GLGMichigan”) has defended thousands of criminal cases in Ann Arbor and throughout Southeastern Michigan for young adult and juvenile offenders.  Firm founder Daniel T. Geherin is a former prosecutor and board-certified criminal trial attorney who has been practicing law for over 25+ years. He’s been rated by Martindale-Hubbell as AV-Preeminent; listed in The Best Lawyers in America; named by Super Lawyers Magazine in the field of Criminal Defense; recognized as a “Top Lawyer” by Detroit Business Magazine; and scored 10/10 “superb” by  He also has received 150+ 5-star client reviews.  

Based in Ann Arbor, GLG Michigan has a steady client base of University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan College Students, as well as many high school student clients. Dan is one of the few private criminal defense attorney's in Ann Arbor and in Washtenaw County who specializes in juvenile delinquency cases, college and school discipline cases.  He’s well-versed in finding paths and solutions (including the use of HYTA and other diversion programs) to avoid his young clients being “branded” with a criminal conviction.  

If your son or daughter has been charged with a crime in Washtenaw County or Southeastern Michigan, and you want to discuss options on how to avoid a conviction, please call or email GLG Michigan 24/7 at (734) 263-2780 or online