Assembly Passes Legislation to Expand Youthful Offender Status, Preserves Futures

Bronx, N.Y. – Providing a second chance for young people who have run afoul of the criminal justice system and been charged with a misdemeanor, legislation introduced by Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner (D – Bronx, 77th AD) sailed through the New York State Assembly by a vote of 106 – 41 on June 15th. The “Second Chance Act of 2015” brings uniformity to New York’s legal system and ensures that 16-, 17-and 18-year-olds charged with misdemeanors will be treated as Youthful Offenders. Under the legislation (Assembly Bill A.7212), Youthful Offender determinations will be the same for defendants who are convicted in local and superior court (county or supreme).

Youthful Offender status is particularly important because it removes the criminal record and label that would otherwise stay with the person through life. Under current law, a youthful defendant who is convicted in a superior court may be treated differently than someone who is convicted in local court. The statute now allows a superior court judge to deny Youthful Offender status, while a local court judge is required to grant Youthful Offender status. This bill would provide for the same treatment, regardless of the level of the court.

“This legislation is about ensuring equitable treatment of our youth is put at the heart of our criminal justice system – especially for first time youthful misdemeanor defendants – whether their cases are resolved in a local or a superior court,” said Assemblywoman Joyner. “Ensuring Youthful Offender status in both courts is essential to ensuring that youthful transgressions don’t lead to the lifelong stigma of a permanent criminal record, and all New Yorkers are given the opportunity for a second chance.”

In 2013, more than 33,000 16-and 17-year-olds were arrested as adults in New York State, according to the Correctional Association of New York. Not only are they are these minors in grave danger, prosecuting them as adults can increase crime. A prior study found that youth charged in New York adult courts are more likely to re-offend with a violent offense.

Across the country, there are an estimated 250,000 youth are tried, sentenced, or incarcerated as adults every year, the Campaign for Youth Justice states. For youth sentenced as adults, the criminal record stigma often leads to future cases, where they are denied employment and educational opportunities. This includes receiving student financial aid.

For more information, please contact Jamie Gilkey at (518) 455-5671 or Mike Giardina at (718) 538-2000.