Raise the Age Law

On April 10, 2017, Governor Cuomo signed “Raise the Age” legislation into law that was supported by many youth advocates, criminal justice reformers, juvenile defense lawyers and criminal attorneys. Up to this point, and until that legislation becomes effective, New York is one of only two states that presumptively prosecutes 16 year-olds and 17-year-olds as adults. Many consider this to be a miscarriage of justice, and those in support of the law relied, in large part, on emerging research regarding the mental development and psychology of children of this age. The impact of this new legislation cannot be overstated. The new law, part of the Fiscal Year 2018 Budget signed into law by Governor Cuomo, sets into motion a sea change in the criminal justice system. As 16 and 17 year-olds start to go through the alternative, parallel justice system of Juvenile Delinquency proceedings throughout New York City, and throughout the state from Westchester County to Rockland County and beyond, it is imperative that these children who are charged with crimes understand the process by which their prosecutions will now be conducted. Simply relying on the soon-to-be outdated system found in adult criminal courts, and the potential for Youthful Offender status will no longer be appropriate.

Beginning October 1, 2018 for 16-year-olds and October 1, 2019 for 17-year-olds, children of those ages who are charged with crimes will be held in juvenile facilities rather than in county jails with adults. This change addresses an often-troubling issue of children as young as 16 being held in large cells awaiting court appearances with grown men, some of whom were hardened criminals and violent felons. The safety of these young people was often placed in jeopardy on a regular basis, which is an often-overlooked consequence of presumptively prosecuting these children as adults.

Once the law has gone into effect for people of the relevant age, a child's misdemeanor case will be heard in Family Court, where they are now handled as any other charge against an adult in an ordinary criminal court such as those in New York City’s Criminal courts or the countless local Justice Courts in municipalities throughout the Hudson Valley from Westchester County and Rockland to Putnam and Orange Counties. This means that criminal cases against children of 16 and 17, for misdemeanor offenses, will now be handled just as a juvenile justice proceeding for children of 15 and younger. This change provides these young people with the benefits and protections of the alternative justice system in Family Court, while also appropriately acknowledging that these children are just that - children.

In addition, the Youth Parts of adult criminal courts throughout the State will be expanded under the new law. The Youth Parts are New York courts dedicated to handling prosecutions of young people. Once new legislation goes into effect for children of the relevant age, all felony cases involving children of that age will be automatically sent to this special Youth Part of the adult criminal court, where judges trained in family law will handle the cases. After 30 days, felony cases against 16- and 17-year-olds will automatically be sent to Family Court and handled as a Juvenile Delinquency case, just as with misdemeanor cases against children of those ages, unless a prosecutor can prove “extraordinary circumstances." Under certain circumstances, violent felonies could remain in the adult court automatically. This will typically be the case if a victim sustained significant physical injury, the child charged with the crime used a weapon, or the child charged with the crime engaged in criminal sexual conduct.

Navigating this new procedural system will no doubt prove difficul with its own intricacies and dynamics. Having an attorney who can guide a child and his or her family through this new system, while also ensuring that that child's rights are protected throughout the process, is critical. When a child or youth is accused of a crime, their entire future is at risk. Be smart, prepared and diligent in your effort to protect him or her from a damaged life or even incarceration. Because an alleged mistake a child makes today should not define him or her forever, contact the New York criminal lawyers, juvenile delinquency and youthful offender attorneys, and former Manhattan prosecutors at Crotty Saland PC to put your child’s interests, rights and future first.

Call the Former Manhattan Prosecutors and Juvenile Defense Lawyers at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

Contact Us
Available 24/7 | 212.312.7129