Agreement on Raise The Age reached according to Assembly Speaker Heastie

An agreement on increasing the age of criminal responsibility will remove 16-year-olds from county jails in 2018 and 17-year-olds in 2019, according to a release issued by Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie Friday night.

“This is the beginning of a new chapter in New York State where young people are given a chance to grow up and recover from their past wrongdoing without forfeiting their futures,” Heastie said.

The release provides some details about what the measure:

Under the new law, cases involving 16- and 17 year-old defendants would be adjudicated as follows:

— Civil violation charges, such as open container violations and possession of small amounts of marijuana, as well as misdemeanors under the Vehicle and Traffic Law, such as DWIs, would continue to be handled in the local court.

— All misdemeanor charges under the the Penal Law would be handled in Family Court.

— All felony charges would begin in a newly established Youth Part of the criminal court, presided over by a Family Court judge, where offenders would have access to additional intervention services and programming.

— Non-violent felony charges would be transferred to Family Court, unless the district attorney makes a motion and demonstrates extraordinary circumstances that justify retaining the case in the Youth Part of the criminal court.

— Violent felony charges would remain in the Youth Part of the criminal court and be subject to a three-part test that weighs the seriousness of the offense to determine whether the case will be eligible for presumptive removal to Family Court.

— Juvenile cases not eligible for removal will be treated as adults for sentencing purposes, though the court will be directed to consider the defendant’s age when imposing a sentence of incarceration.

In light of the serious incidents that have resulted from the detention of juveniles on Rikers Island and other correctional facilities in the state, the new law will establish the following schedule for the removal of juveniles from county jails: October 1, 2018for offenders under the age of 17 and October 1, 2019 for offenders under the age of 18. When detention is necessary, they will be held in local youth detention facilities certified and regulated by the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS). Juveniles convicted in the Youth Part and sentenced to state prison will be incarcerated in an adolescent offender facility operated by the Department of Corrections and Community Supervision with programs provided by OCFS.

A widely recognized obstacle for past offenders in their efforts to move on and live independent, law-abiding lives is the “scarlet letter” of criminality that follows them post-conviction and incarceration. Other than a limited ability to have certain drug offenses sealed following court ordered treatment, there is currently no opportunity for persons with non-violent criminal convictions to ever have their records sealed. The stigma of a criminal record causes severe collateral consequences such as the inability to access educational and employment opportunities, housing and other vital services. Under the reforms announced today, a defendant of any age who is convicted of certain non-violent offenses could apply to the court for a sealing of their record after a 10-year waiting period following the completion of their sentence.”

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