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Summary: Under current law Texas currently considers a 17-year-old to be an adult for some purposes. However, various court decisions have held that the death penalty or even a life sentence without parole is unconstitutional for juveniles under the age of 18. As a result, 17-year-olds who are otherwise considered adults are not able to be charged with capital offenses and end up being charged with lesser offenses instead. SB 187 would make the penalty life imprisonment with the possibility of parole for an individual under the age of 18 who is convicted of a capital offense. This bill would make the penalty for an individual 18 years of age or older who is convicted of a capital offense life without parole in cases where the state is not seeking the death penalty.
Analysis: In Texas, teens between the ages of 14 and 16 may be charged with a capital offense and receive a life sentence with the possibility of parole. SB 187 allows 17-year-olds to be charged with capital crimes rather than getting a lesser charge on account of what is essentially a technicality based on their age. We support SB 187.