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TN lawmakers talk juvenile justice changes to charge juveniles as adults for some crimes

Both TN House Speaker Cameron Sexton and Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said they would like to see juveniles required to be charged as adults for some crimes.

CROSSVILLE, Tenn. — The top lawmakers in both chambers of the Tennessee legislature said they would like to see juveniles required to be charged as adults for certain crimes — a change from the current system in Tennessee. 

In the current system, if a juvenile commits a crime, a prosecutor would have to ask a judge to charge the juvenile as an adult. A juvenile court judge would then have to agree to transfer the child to adult court. 

Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton's proposal would eliminate those steps. 

"What I would like is if you commit certain violent crimes as juveniles, you're going to be tried in criminal court as an adult," Speaker Sexton said. 

Speaker Sexton said he's concerned juveniles don't have penalties as harsh as adults and said he believes he's seeing an increase in crimes committed by juveniles statewide. 

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally agreed. The Lt. Gov. said he would like to see this be the case for crimes involving weapons and violence. 

However, a longtime juvenile defense attorney said she hasn't seen any evidence that says requiring juveniles to be tried as adults would lower the crime rate. Chloe Akers said this proposal would take away a judge's discretion to decide each individual case on its own circumstances. 

"It is up to the person, but it depends on the crime they commit," Speaker Sexton said. 

The proposals come amid the Tennessee legislature's focus on juvenile justice. The legislature convened an Ad Hoc committee, to explore issues regarding juvenile justice. 

Loudon County State Rep. Lowell Russell was a member of that committee. 

"I think we'll see big improvements as the legislation moves forward," Rep. Russell said. 

The committee made several recommendations to the state legislature. Lawmakers would have to propose bills that would be passed by each house, and the governor would have to sign the bills before any changes would take effect. 

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