New York is one of only two states which has a practice of charging younger teens as adults when those teens break the law. In New York, teens ages 16 and 17 who are accused of crimes will be charged as adults by default, rather than having their cases adjudicated in family court where there is a stronger focus on rehabilitation.
When a teen is arrested, the teen will be held in an adult prison where he or she will serve out the imposed sentence, if convicted. A young person convicted at age 16 or 17 will also be left with a permanent criminal record because he or she is charged as an adult. This can make it much harder to rebuild a life after completing a sentence. Because of the high stakes, it becomes vital for families of young people who are arrested to get help from Albany criminal defense attorneys.
While defense attorneys are often effective at helping teens avoid being convicted or effective at negotiating a plea deal to reduce penalties, there is a problem with a system that forces 16 and 17 year olds to answer for their actions as if they were adults when they are actually still too young to make fully informed choices about their behavior.
There are many advocacy groups that have been fighting this practice in New York. These groups often argue that family courts provide a much better way to deal with younger offenders, especially since it can be dangerous for young people to be imprisoned with adults. These groups have become very organized in their efforts to convince lawmakers to implement change. For example, a coalition of community groups called Raise the Age was formed to try to encourage lawmakers to take action and raise the age at which a suspected offender is tried as an adult.
The campaign has had an impact. The Independent Democratic Conference, which is comprised of eight lawmakers who work closely with Senate Republicans, rallied to the Raise the Age Campaign.
Chalk Beat now reports that the latest efforts to modify the law are gaining traction and there is real hope that change will soon occur.
The state Senate, which is led by Republicans, included a provision in its budget to support raising the age at which a person is considered to have criminal responsibility and can be charged as an adult. The budget recently passed.
The state Assembly has long been in support of raising the age and Governor Cuomo has also expressed support and has included provisions to raise the age in his past budget. This means that there is finally a growing consensus and a possibility to move legislation forward that actually makes the change.
Unless and until the law is modified, however, young people who are arrested still face a significant risk of a life-changing conviction. The Law Office of James E. Tyner, PLLC can provide representation to teens who are charged in an effort to try to help them get the best outcome possible in a criminal justice system that fails to protect vulnerable young people. Contact us today.