WHITE PLAINS, NY — The District Attorney’s Office (DAO) has been actively involved in working groups preparing for the change in legal status of 16- and 17-year-old offenders. The law raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18. New York was previously one of only 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.
The law creates 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 Adolescent Offender (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 a the defendant is alleged to have displayed a weapon, committed criminal sexual conduct or caused significant physical injury will remain in the Youth Part.
An AO diverted to Family Court will be eligible for adjustment services through probation. These programs will be tailored to the specific needs of each individual. Furthermore, special rooms will 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.
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.
Raise the age is a major change in the criminal process. New York State further explains the implementation of Raise the Age which affects all law enforcement and the justice system.