New York Just Moved One Very Important Step Closer to Common Sense Criminal Justice Reforms

What Might This New Law Mean for Youth Offenders?

The idea surrounding youth accountability for crimes is often controversial. Some people worry about youth who might only be 16 or 17 years old paying an ‘adult price’ for the crimes they commit. Others point to the importance of enforcing strict criminal penalties, especially as a deterrent to others.

As criminal defense lawyers, we see people of all ages make mistakes that can cost them their lives. It is all too unfortunate to see young kids being tried as adults when they are not truly able to make decisions that can affect them for the rest of their lives. Recognizing this, New York legislators have worked hard to make changes to criminal justice laws that make sense.

New Reforms in the Works

In mid-February, New York legislators in the State Assembly passed legislation that would prevent youth aged 16 and 17 suspected of crime from automatically facing charges as adults.

The legislation is part of a larger package of proposed bills targeting criminal justice reform within the state. Other propositions include efforts regarding the use of solitary confinement for youth and the role the New York Attorney General should play in investigating certain shootings where police officers are involved.

Right now, New York and North Carolina are the only two states where 16 year olds are automatically charged as adults. Shaun King, a writer at the New York Post, cites the passage of the new legislation as good news and comments how New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is “committed to signing it into law the moment it crosses his desk.”

King writes how raising the age is “a common sense reform that will put New York in line with the rest of the country,” but expresses concern about how slow the whole reform process has taken, as the state Senate still must approve the legislation now.

Other “Raise the Age” States

South Carolina passed a similar law without dissention. It is beyond comprehension that a “16-year-old kid who steals a candy bar or spray paints an abandoned building is automatically charged, tried, and sentenced as an adult in New York.”

Bills that ‘raise the age’ have become somewhat popular across the United States in the past several years. Several states have passed reforms regarding the age of juvenile jurisdiction in recent memory, and numerous advocacy groups have sprung up across the nation that are urging for general reforms regarding youth justice.

Much of the debate around this type of legislation surrounds the merits of rehabilitation versus incarceration for crimes. With the new law, some youth might be able to receive rehabilitative services instead of simply facing incarceration for their crimes.

Information from the website of Raise the Age NY points to data regarding how the brains of those who are under 25 might not be fully developed, and as a result, adolescences are “likely to grow out of negative or delinquent behavior.”

The new law could also keep certain youth out of unfavorable adult prisons that might not have the proper rehabilitative services that might be afforded to them in a juvenile facility. Research has pointed to an increased propensity for youth to commit suicide in adult prisons, or reported more instances of attacks or beatings. With hope, this new legislation will reduce the number of youth put in this position.

If you have been accused of committing a crime in the New York area, get the help of the New York criminal defense attorneys at Ianniello Anderson, P.C. Contact us today for a free consultation. Serving clients in the Albany, Clifton Park, Glens Falls, Saratoga Springs, Troy, and the entire Northeastern NY areas at (518) 350.7755.