You Must be ‘This’ Tall: An Analysis of Vermont’s Initiative Raising the Age of Delinquency Beyond Eighteen

In 1899, the first juvenile court system was established in Cook County, Illinois. The newly founded court recognized that crimes committed by children should be adjudicated differently than those committed by adults. Over the next twelve decades, state legislatures and Congress have gradually diminished the autonomy of juvenile courts, undermining their purpose by manipulating the age of delinquency and initiating transfer procedures to adult criminal court. However, in 2022, Vermont became the first state in the nation to pass legislation raising the age of delinquency above 18 in recognition of scientific studies and judicial opinions challenging the belief that children appreciate criminal culpability in a similar way to adults. This Note focuses on Vermont’s statutory approach to increasing the age of delinquency above 18 and the logistical issues the State encountered while implementing the new laws. Additionally, this Note discusses the probability of other states adopting similar changes, using Texas as an example. Texas is very different from Vermont in its demographics, approaches to incarceration, and political affiliation. Ultimately, the combination of demographics and political persuasion inherent to the criminal penal policy will likely prove too overwhelming for the approach adopted by Vermont to apply nationally.