New York 'Raises The Age' For Teen Offenders

New York has joined 48 other states and changed the legal status for teenagers who commit crimes in the state.

The Westchester County District Attorney announced that Oct. 1 was Raise the Age day.
The Westchester County District Attorney announced that Oct. 1 was Raise the Age day. Photo Credit: Westchester County District Attorney's Office

The Westchester County District Attorney’s office has been “actively involved in working groups preparing for the change in legal status of 16- and 17-year-old offenders.” The new law, which raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18, went into effect on Monday, Oct. 1.

New York had been one of two states that automatically prosecuted 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. The new legislation includes statutory amendments that, among other things, creates a new Adolescent Offender (AO) classification and establishes a new Youth Part in Superior Court.

According to Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr., the law is creating a new category of juvenile offender.

“Any 16- or 17-year-old charged with a felony or a misdemeanor as part of the same crime will be considered an AO.  All AOs will be arraigned in the newly established Youth Part of the Superior Court. Nonviolent felonies will be heard in Family Court unless the District Attorney files a motion to keep the case in the Youth Part. Any case where the defendant is alleged to have displayed a weapon, committed criminal sexual conduct or caused significant physical injury will remain in the Youth Part.”

As it currently stands, 16-year-olds charged with serious offenses will be processed as adolescent offenders in a Youth Part of criminal court and placed in specialized secure detention facilities for adolescents instead of adult jails. The law will extend to 17-year-olds on Oct. 1, 2019. 

Scarpino noted that an AO diverted to Family Court will be eligible for adjustment services through probation. Those programs will be tailored to the specific needs of each individual. Special rooms will also be made available for questioning youth who have been arrested, similar to what is now available in Family Courts. Parental notification requirements will also be extended to include 16- and 17-year-olds, unlike in previous years.

In Westchester, ADAs will staff the newly formed Youth Part which will handle violent and certain nonviolent felonies. The Youth Part will operate daily during regular court hours to accommodate all arraignments and returns on warrants issued by the Youth Part.

Complete information on the “Raise the Age” initiative can be found here.

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