Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C-Ballston) is leading the effort alongside Minority Leader Will Barclay to reform ”Raise the Age” legislation enacted in the 2017 budget. Walsh was also joined by Saratoga County District Attorney Karen Heggen for Thursday’s press conference on reforming “Raise the Age.” The original legislation raised the age from 16 to 18 to be prosecuted as an adult. As a result, the vast majority of youthful offenders (YO’s) go before family court, where the perpetrator’s record is sealed, and upon subsequent arrest, the YO is treated as a first-time offender.
The proposed legislation by Assembly Minority looks at YO’s who commit violent and non-violent felonies and adjusts the process by redefining the burden of proof DA’s must meet in order to either send the YO to the Youth Part of Criminal Court or to family court. The current law makes it almost impossible for a DA to keep a case in the youth part, and as a result violent felonies—particularly gun crimes—are sent to family court where the YO is not held fully accountable for their actions.
According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) 16-and 17-year-old offenders accounted for the following in 2021:
- 112 arrests for homicide
- 80 arrests for sex offenses
- 587 arrests for firearms/dangerous weapon offenses
- 691 arrests for robbery
- 213 arrests for burglary
- 20 arrests for making a terroristic threat, as well as more than 1,600 additional felony arrests
“Raise the Age legislation has allowed for a revolving-door criminal justice system for 16-and 17-year-olds who fear no recourse due to their prior arrests being sealed to family court judges,” said Walsh. “I am proud to co-sponsor legislation with Leader Barclay to reform Raise the Age and hold those who commit serious felonies accountable in criminal court. Our legislation will once again put the rights and concerns of victims ahead of their perpetrators.”