It is never a good thing when a teenager faces criminal charges, but the biggest nightmare for teens and parents is when a young person ends up being charged as an adult. Teenagers do not have the maturity or knowledge to make informed and rationale decisions or to weigh the consequences of their actions the way adults do. Holding a young person criminally responsible for breaking the law can have an adverse impact on future prospects and trap a teen in a life of poverty and crime forever. Trying teens as adults can also lead to lengthy jail sentences that ruin the opportunity for rehabilitation and building a brighter future.
While it is bad enough for a young teen to be charged as an adult in limited cases, the state of New York actually has policies in place that result in all teens aged 16 and older being tried as adults. This is because the age of criminal responsibility is 16 in NY, rather than 18 as it is in most states. New York and North Carolina are the only two states in the entire U.S. that prosecutes all kids as adults at age 16. Fortunately, this could soon be changing as Governor Cuomo pushes to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18. According to Auburn.com, NY House members have endorsed the governor’s proposal so positive changes could soon be coming to New York State.
Parents need to be aware of New York’s current strict laws for young offenders. When a young person is accused of breaking the law, whether for a drug crime, for larceny, or for more serious violent offenses, it is imperative that parents find the best New York criminal defense lawyer they can to help protect their child’s future.
Juvenile Justice Reform a Big Issue in New York
Governor Andre Cuomo has made his Raise the Age campaign a key part of his juvenile justice reform agenda. The governor has stated: “Raising the age is key to both improving public safety and helping at-risk teenagers build safe and successful futures.”
When a young person aged 16 or 17 is convicted of an adult offense in New York City, the teen goes to adult prison. There is a significantly greater risk of suicide among young offenders in adult prisons and children imprisoned with adults are also especially vulnerable to abuse. Rehabilitation opportunities are fewer in adult prisons than in juvenile incarceration centers, and this increases the chance that the teen will engage in further criminal activity upon being released from prison.
A total of 15 NY House members have now joined Cuomo in his reform efforts, and there is hope that a law will be passed to raise the age before the end of the legislative session this year. Some of the lawmakers who have spoken out in support of the change to New York’s criminal responsibility age are actually former prosecutors who have seen first hand the consequences associated with trying teens as adults even though young people do not think the same way as people do when they are fully grown.
There are currently 800 inmates in adult prisons or jails in New York who are under 18 and this number increases every year. Hopefully, a change will be made so young people who are accused of crimes can actually get the help they need.
An experienced attorney can provide assistance to parents and children whose lives are disrupted by the arrest of a teenager. A New York City criminal defense lawyer can help try to get charges dropped; help try to make a strong case so the teen avoids conviction; or can negotiate a plea deal with prosecutors that may be able to keep a teen offender out of jail. As soon as your child is arrested, get help from a criminal lawyer with experience in complex juvenile crime cases.