27 Jul 23

Juvenile Crimes, Delinquency & Youthful Offender Proceedings: Raise the Age Law

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Last Updated on: 6th August 2023, 10:38 pm

Raise the Age Initiative in New York

In 2017, the state of New York raised the age of juveniles being tried as adults for non-violent crimes. The age was raised to 18, and by October of 2019, the state stopped prosecuting all 16 and 17-year-old children as adults. Instead, they pushed for these juveniles to receive proper treatment and interventions based on the evidence of the crime committed.

Promoting Positive Outcomes

The decision was made by the Office for Justice Initiatives, OJI, who wanted to see the courts in New York promote positive outcomes for juveniles. This initiative works with all agencies that deal with minors to create strategies to push the juvenile justice system to help reform children in a fair manner.

The Legislation

The first stage of the legislation took effect at the beginning of October in 2019. It mandated all juveniles who are 16 or 17 and did not commit a violent crime to receive the proper intervention. If they committed a felony, they would be tried in the youth section of the criminal courts of the jurisdiction where the crime was committed. Additionally, they would not be housed in facilities or jails designated for adults. The courts will also allow juveniles who have not committed a violent felony, sexual offense, or more than two felonies to apply to have their records sealed after ten years of maintaining a clean record.

Why the Changes

Before 2017, New York considered everyone over the age of 15 as an adult. Many had issues with this because psychologists have conducted studies on the mental development of children. For a person to be charged with a crime, they must understand the charges against them. The initiative feels that this understanding is not possible given the developmental stage of juveniles at the age of 16 or 17. Besides potentially not understanding the process, juveniles were often housed with violent felons or seasoned criminals. This exposure endangered their safety and compromised their mental well-being.

What the Changes Mean

The most significant alteration with the Raise the Age initiative is that misdemeanor cases will only be held in family court, as opposed to criminal court. The family courts used to only address cases for children under 16, but now they will extend the same benefits to those under 18. The family courts will also receive assistance from the Youth Parts, a section of the adult courts dedicated to juvenile cases, which will handle felony cases. Unless prosecutors prove the juvenile had extraordinary circumstances, all cases will be directed to the Family Court. Exceptions in the adult court will be situations where a significant injury or death occurred, the juvenile used a weapon, or the juvenile committed a sexual offense.

What is to Come?

The Raise the Age initiative is still in its development phase, with further changes anticipated. While advocates have made substantial progress, they advocate for children under twelve to not face prosecution. Instead, they recommend these children receive preventative measures and treatment. Advocates are also pressing for sealed records for cases held in adult courts prior to the Raise the Age law, encompassing individuals now aged between 19 and 25. The full extent of future adjustments remains to be seen, as the initiative is currently active in only five states.

Seeking Legal Assistance

With all these changes, if your child has been charged with a crime, hiring a defense attorney is crucial. Navigating the new system independently can be intricate and overwhelming. Your child’s future is at stake, so it’s vital to secure someone familiar with the system and prioritizes your child’s best interests. Although the courts aim to provide the best protection, consulting both a defense attorney and a youth offender attorney is recommended.