Youth Part of Criminal Courts

Children aged 16 and 17, while considered minors in almost every other area, will traditionally be presumptively prosecuted and tried as adults if they are charged with a crime in New York. However, these children have certain other options afforded to them based on their age that you should discuss with your criminal attorney. The new Raise the Age law, signed into law by Governor Cuomo very recently, will serve to divert children of this age into the Juvenile Justice process in certain situations and given certain charges. Even without the benefits and protections of this new law, 16 and 17-year olds are eligible for Youthful Offender adjudication, which differs from a criminal conviction in terms of potential sentences, and in that it will not give the child a "criminal record." The law and plea negotiations relating to these Youthful Offender, or "YO" Adjudications can be convoluted and difficult to decipher.

Youthful Offender Adjudication

In all courts throughout New York State, including Manhattan, the Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Rockland County and Westchester County, the law on YO Adjudications is the same. The definitions and rules regarding Youthful Offender adjudications are governed by the New York Criminal Procedure Law, Sections 720.10 through 720.35. One critical issue is understanding the difference between so-called "Mandatory" and "Discretionary" YO. A child of 16 or 17 essentially gets one opportunity for YO for a misdemeanor, such as Petit Larceny, PL 155.25, and one opportunity for YO on a felony charge, such as Assault in the Second Degree, PL 120.05. A child's first misdemeanor conviction, if the offense happened when they were of this age, will automatically be a YO Adjudication, which means that for a 16 or 17 year old defendant's first misdemeanor conviction, they will not get a criminal record. However, if a child is convicted of a second misdemeanor while still of that age, he or she is no longer eligible and that charge will go on their record as a criminal conviction. If the child is convicted of a felony, it will be up to the discretion of the Court whether the child will be adjudicated a Youthful Offender or not, given the circumstances. Once a child has received a YO on a felony, he or she is no longer eligible for another YO on any offense. However, if the prior YO was on a misdemeanor conviction, the child will still be eligible for discretionary YO on a subsequent felony conviction.

Adolescent Diversion Part: Youth Part Court

In addition to the benefits and protections of Youthful Offender status and adjudications, there are special courts in certain areas known as Adolescent Diversion Parts or "Youth Parts." These courts are designed to address the unique issues and circumstances that arise in the context of a prosecution of a 16 or 17 year old child. Children whose cases are diverted to a Youth Part must be charged with a non-violent offense. These courts are currently available in Bronx, Erie, Kings, Onondaga, Nassau, New York, Richmond, Queens, and Westchester Counties. Judges in these specialty courts also have certain youth-specific sentencing options and social services.

The role of the Youth Parts is set to be expanded under the new Raise the Age Law passed in 2017. Youth Parts will be established in counties throughout the State of New York and all felony cases involving children of those ages 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, unless a prosecutor can prove “extraordinary circumstances." Violent felonies could remain in the adult court automatically if a victim sustained significant physical injury, the child defendant used a weapon, and/or the child defendant engaged in criminal sexual conduct.

While cases are pending in the Youth Parts, the process is much more akin to traditional adult prosecutions and having an attorney with expertise in that area will serve your child well. However, if and when a case is transferred from a Youth Part to Family Court, the dynamics and process shift to those of typical juvenile justice prosecutions and having a juvenile crimes lawyer well-versed in both areas becomes 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.

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