MAY 19, 1997

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Locke signs juvenile justice reform bill

juvenile justice reform Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old youths will be prosecuted as adults for committing violent crimes as a result of House Bill 3900, signed by Governor Gary Locke last Tuesday. Juveniles who commit crimes, such as drive-by shootings, first-degree robbery, first-degree child rape, any crime in which the offender is armed with a firearm, and first degree burglary, if the juvenile has one prior felony or misdemeanor, will be automatically sent to adult court. Violent juveniles will also receive an adult sentence and a strike under Washington's violent offender "Three Strikes, You're Out" law.
   "All of us who care about the safety of our families and neighborhoods can breathe a little easier today," Gov. Locke said. "Now more serious juvenile offenders will spend time behind bars and first-time offenders will receive a clear message that crime has its consequences."
   It is estimated that more than 155 juveniles a year will be referred to adult court with the new law.
   "The overriding theme of this bill is accountability, and it covers the entire spectrum of needs in the juvenile justice system," said Sen. Jeanine Long, R-Mill Creek. Long authored much of the final bill passed by the Legislature.
   Crimes such as child molestation, residential burglary, and possession of a stolen firearm will be reclassified as more serious offenses under the law. Other provisions of the bill include:   The bill revamps the 1977 Juvenile Justice Act. HB3900 was approved by the House by a vote of 98-0.
   Locke also signed 14 other crime bills. HB 1176 adds more crimes to the list of "strikes" under the "Two Strikes, You're Out" sexual offender law. Offenders at least 16-years-old who commit first-degree child rape, and 18-year-olds who commit second-degree child rape, will get one of their two strikes under the provision of the law.
   HB 1924 increases penalties for rape, child rape, indecent liberties committed with forcible compulsion, and failing to register as a sex offender.
   Locke signed the bills at King County's Department of Youth Services Detention Facility in Seattle.