Assemblyman Chris Tague (R,C-Schoharie) was joined by Delaware County District Attorney Shawn J. Smith at a press conference in the State Capitol held by Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C-Pulaski) to announce new conference legislation that reverses the impact Raise the Age (RTA) has had on allowing the majority of adolescent offenders (AO) to be processed through family court instead of the new Youth Part of Superior Court.
“This is an important distinction because when youth crimes go through youth court there is no record. If these adolescent offenders go on to commit another crime, and all the research shows that most of them do, the courts can’t access those records,” said Tague. “These are felony level crimes going unpunished. Career criminals know it and are exploiting it. We believe a felony crime deserves felony time.”
Tague said it was shocking to discover how few felony crimes have actually been processed in the newly-created Youth Part of the Superior Court. This was created specifically as a result of RTA as a safeguard to allow for more appropriate justice for violent felony offenders; however, because it is staffed by family court judges and the laws are unclear and give preference to moving offenders to regular family court instead, the majority of cases are sent to family court – even when the crime involved is a violent felony.
In fact, according to data compiled by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services on RTA only 9% of the 3,303 AOs charged with felony crimes in 2021 received a felony conviction. Of the remaining felony offenders, that year, 83% were moved to family court despite them being arrested for violent, heinous crimes like homicide, felony sex crimes, felony gun crimes, robbery and burglary, acts of terrorism and more than 1,600 other felony-level crimes.
The new legislation proposed by Tague, Barclay and their conference would require all violent felony AOs be sent to the Youth Part of Superior Court, allows for access to their records and clearly defines other provisions of the law as well as other reforms.