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Bill moving through Tennessee House could change juvenile justice system

From Local 3 News: A bill moving through the Tennessee House could change the juvenile justice system.   As written in HB1029, 17-year-

From Local 3 News: A bill moving through the Tennessee House could change the juvenile justice system.


As written in HB1029, 17-year-olds would be sent directly to adult court, even for something as simple as a traffic violation.


Teens ages 13 to 16 who commit certain serious crimes would also bypass the juvenile court system and go straight to adult criminal court. Some of those offenses are rape, robbery, and attempted murder.

Local 3 News spoke with Hamilton County’s Juvenile Court Judge Rob Philyaw to get his take on the bill. He says this bill goes against the reason juvenile court exists.

“Our mission and reason for being in juvenile court is to try to rehabilitate children who commit or make mistakes and commit acts that would be a crime if committed by an adult. This bill would remove from juvenile courts a lot of those children and send them directly to jail and directly to criminal court.”


Philyaw says if this bill passes, it will be a huge problem for law enforcement because the jails in our county are not equipped to handle juveniles with adults.


The Hamilton County District Attorney is attempting to try several juveniles as adults after a series of car jackings earlier this year, where six teens were arrested for two car jackings.


General Wamp says she will seek to try five of the six teens as adults. The sixth suspect is 13, and cannot be tried as an adult under state law.

“We are in a place in Hamilton County where we’ve got to hold juveniles accountable. And, unfortunately some are just going to have to be the example. There are very serious criminal offenses including carjacking and aggravated robbery,” she said in February.


The car jacking incidents occurred on January 26th and 28th.


Local 3 looked into what goes into the decision to try a juvenile as an adult. A juvenile court judge must approve the transfer of the minor.


Local attorney Jerry Tidwell said right now, they will investigate and essentially judge each child’s life.


If the judge agrees with the DA, he said the case will go to Hamilton County criminal court.


Tidwell said they will interview those who know them well in order to understand the suspects outside of the incident.


The bill will be heard by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It will then have to pass in both the house and the senate before it can be signed by Governor Lee.