BOSTON (AP) - The Massachusetts House has approved a change in how the state's court system handles teenage offenders.
The bill that passed the House unanimously on Wednesday would treat 17-year-olds accused of most crimes as juveniles, meaning their cases would automatically go to juvenile court instead of adult court.
Supporters of the measure said Massachusetts was one of only 11 states in which 17-year-olds are prosecuted as adults. In most states, adult court jurisdiction begins at age 18.
Judges could still impose adult sentences on 17-year-olds convicted of very serious crimes, and all murder cases would still be tried in adult court.
Backers of the legislation say passage would help Massachusetts comply with a federal law that seeks to reduce prison rapes by requiring that younger inmates be separated from adult prisoners.