PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Teens charged with certain Measure 11 crimes can now resolve their criminal cases in juvenile court instead of adult court – a move that is receiving praise within community justice circles.

On Wednesday, Multnomah County District Attorney Rod Underhill issued a new policy that states teens between the ages of 15 and 17, who are charged with “Tier II” Measure 11 crimes — specifically 2nd-degree robbery, 2nd-degree assault and 2nd-degree kidnapping — can have their cases settled through a plea deal in juvenile court.

What is Measure 11?

The old policy would require the teen taking the plea to waive juvenile jurisdiction and accept the plea and sentence in adult court.

The new policy will be applied on a case-by-case basis.

“Effective immediately this office will consider providing a juvenile resolution for cases within this group factoring in victim input and impact, offender accountability, the circumstance surrounding the offense/criminal episode and determine the risks and needs of the offender. …

“These resolutions will necessitate, and include, a strong probation supervision component developed in conjunction with the Multnomah County Department of Community Justice and the Court to meet the challenges and opportunities associated with this young offender population and the specific circumstances involved with the individual.” — DA Rod Underhill

Chief Deputy District Attorney Kirsten Snowden said Tier II Ballot Measure 11 crimes as “crimes that aren’t endangering lives or causing serious physical injury.”

Tier II Measure 11 crimes don’t endanger lives, cause serious injury

“We’re hopefully going to be affording juveniles, who have committed a serious mistake, an opportunity to not have the lifetime adult conviction on their record,” she said.

One of the goals the DA’s Office has with the policy is to allow juvenile offenders better opportunity to get housing, employment and education after a case has been resulted.

“This opportunity allows them to go forward and not have those barriers … that they might otherwise have if they are trying to move past their prior criminal behavior,” Snowden said.

The DA’s Office also recognizes that there is a disproportionate number of minority teen defendants, and frequently victims, coming through the adult system.

“We are hoping that by not having felony convictions, that won’t be an added barrier to them moving on with their lives,” Snowden said.

In a statement, Bobbin Singh, Executive Director of Oregon Justice Resource Center said “We commend District Attorney Rod Underhill and his office for announcing a new policy that provides additional options for resolution for juveniles 15 to 17 years old charged with certain crimes. The policy change acknowledges and is consistent with the science and the need to treat kids as kids and not as adults.”