Leaving Childhood Behind: An Exploration of Michigan's Prosecutorial Waiver Statute

John D. Burrow, University of South Carolina

Since the mid-1980's, many states have reconsidered the manner in which their respective juvenile justice systems should deal with violent and serious juvenile offenders. One such state was Michigan which in 1988 revised its waiver statute in order that prosecutors would be given greater authority to make waiver decisions. This change in the statute was a dramatic departure in that the state previously utilized judicial waiver as the mechanism through which violent and serious juvenile offenders could gain entry into the adult criminal court system. This system of judicial waiver was criticized in that it was believed that too much discretion was given to judges and also judges were prone to use extra-legal factors when making waiver decisions. While this change was hailed as an important step toward making juveniles more accountable for their actions, there was no empirical research that would suggest that sjuvenile offenders were treated too leniently under the judicial waiver system. This study will examine Michigan's waiver system since 1988. More specifically, this current study will explore whether prosecutors are more likely to waive juvenile offenders to criminal court in light of the crimes that they commit. Further, this study will examine wehther legal factors exert a greater influence on the waiver decision or whether extra-legal factors continue to predominate waiver decisions.

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Updated 05/20/2006