While it is a normal procedure for criminal offenses by children aged 16 and under to be handled in a New York Family court, there are exceptions to this rule. Children as young as ages 13-15 can face a more serious judicial setting than a Juvenile Delinquency hearing when they commit certain serious crimes. There is also the chance that perpetrators of the most serious criminal offenses can be tried as adults despite their young age.
The decision to handle children in adult court is a reflection of the seriousness of the crime committed by the child. Another consideration is the fact the juvenile justice system is often not equipped to mete out the higher levels of punishment and supervision necessary to properly address some serious offenses.
The most information-rich sections of juvenile crime laws in New York are contained in section 722.20 of New York Criminal Procedure Law and section 10 of New York Penal Law. The NYCPL explains the procedures that should be used when a juvenile commits a crime in New York. The NYPL identifies who is designated a juvenile for the purposes of criminal prosecution in the state.
Serious Crimes by Juveniles
Youthful offenders aged 13-16 years old can be tried as adults in the state of New York when one of the following circumstances applies to a serious crime committed by the offender.
- Second degree murder when it is found to be a sexually motivated felony. Offenders 13 years or older can be tried as adults in these types of cases.
- Second degree murder that accompanies another crime in which a child may be tried as an adult. Offenders 14 and over are subject to this stipulation.
- First degree kidnapping
- First degree arson
- First degree assault
- First degree manslaughter
- First degree rape
- First degree criminal sexual acts
- First degree aggravated sexual abuse
- First degree burglary
- Second degree burglary
- Second degree arson
- First degree robbery
- Second degree robbery
An underaged person charged with any of the above crimes is subject to prosecution as an adult in the state of New York. The age for adult prosecution begins at 13 in the state and is applicable without a prior criminal history, history in Family Court, or history of causing trouble at school.
The Criminal Process
The course a prosecutor takes in regards to his or her decision as to whether a youthful offender will be tried an adult may be greatly influenced by the jurisdiction in which the crime took place. Some jurisdictions have been historically tough on juveniles who commit serious crimes while others tend to allow them to retain the legal protections they have as juveniles in the state.
As difficult as it may be to imagine a child as young as 13 spending the rest of his or her life in prison, that is the maximum sentence that can be assessed toward a juvenile for crimes of a serious nature in New York State. It is of utmost importance that a child accused of any of the crimes listed above find a lawyer to represent them that possesses sufficient knowledge of the laws regarding the child’s particular case. The attorney should also be familiar with the unique set of circumstances caused by the youth of the offender who stands accused of the crimes. Finally, a lawyer is needed that has the compassion to understand and respect the fragility of the child facing the accusations.
The Need for an Advocate
Children who are accused of committing serious felony offenses face having their entire future taken away from them. It is incumbent upon the adults in the child’s life to exercise intelligence, preparation, and diligence in their efforts to protect the child from long-term incarceration and a severely damaged life.
It is the belief of the lawyers working for our firm that a mistake by a child should not cost him or her their life regardless of the seriousness of that mistake. If a child you love is facing prosecution for a serious crime in New York, you should contact us for a free evaluation as soon as possible.
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