NY budget: Cuomo touts ‘legacy accomplishment’ — raising age of criminal responsibility
Auburn Citizen — The state budget agreement outlined by Gov. Andrew Cuomo Friday includes a major policy shift: raising the age of criminal responsibility for 16- and 17-year-old offenders.
According to Cuomo’s office, the age of juvenile delinquency would increase from 16 to 17-years-old beginning Oct. 1, 2018. It would then rise to 18 on Oct. 1, 2019.
Young offenders won’t be housed in adult correctional facilities or jails, including Rikers Island in New York City. And a task force will be created to review the implementation of the “Raise the Age” policy. The members of the task force will be appointed by the governor.
Cuomo called raising the age of criminal responsibility a “legacy accomplishment.”
“They have talked about passing ‘Raise the Age’ for 12 or 13 years,” he said. “It never got done. It was like marriage equality. Tried and failed, tried and failed. This budget does it.”
Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, a major proponent of the ‘Raise the Age’ proposal, shed more light on the plan and what it means for 16- and 17-year-old offenders.
Local courts will continue to handle civil violation charges, such as possessing small amounts of marijuana, and misdemeanor traffic charged, such as driving while intoxicated.
Misdemeanor charges under the state’s penal law will be handled in family court.
Felony charges would begin in the new youth section of the criminal court and overseen by a family court judge. Defendants would have access to intervention programs and services.
Nonviolent felony charges would be moved to family court unless the district attorney “demonstrates extraordinary circumstances” that would require the case to remain with the youth criminal court.
For violent felony charges, these cases would remain with the youth part of the criminal court. A three-part test will be used to determine whether a case should be moved to family court. Juvenile offenders that aren’t eligible for family court will be treated as adults for sentencing, but the court will be directed to consider the defendant’s age when issuing a jail or prison sentence.
Heastie, a Bronx Democrat, called the inclusion of “Raise the Age” in this year’s state budget a “tremendous victory” for New Yorkers.
“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.
New York had been one of two states (North Carolina is the other) where the age of criminal responsibility applied to all 16- and 17-year-olds.