The New Year brings a change in the way the criminal court system handles 17-year-olds charged with a felony. A new state law means they’re now considered juveniles in most instances. That means a difference in how they’re incarcerated before trial, and the kind of sentences they get. It also means that a felony conviction won’t follow them for the rest of their lives. What’s not clear is how prosecutors will handle pending felony cases against 17-year-olds.
Another new law will bring more teenagers to the polls in Illinois, beginning with the March primary. The law allows 17-year-olds to register and cast ballots in primaries if they’ll be turning 18 before the general election in November. County clerks across the state are planning programs to inform young people about the law and to encourage them to get involved as voters and as judges of elections. The primary will be held March 18.