Assemblyman Phil Palmesano (R,C-Corning) joined his Assembly Minority colleagues and district attorneys from around the state for a press conference on Thursday opposing “Raise the Age” legislation. “Raise the Age” was enacted as part of the 2017-18 state budget and it lifted the age an individual can be criminally prosecuted as an adult from 16 to 18. This allows 16- and 17-year-olds to commit heinous crimes with little to no recourse as they are sent to family court rather than criminal court. In family court, the offenders’ records are sealed from the judge and court outcomes are not shared with their victims. Gangs in New York City have also used this law to recruit 16-and 17-year-olds to do their bidding with little fear of legal jeopardy from family court proceedings. According to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), in the year 2021, 16-and 17-year-old offenders accounted for:
- 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
“These statistics from DCJS are alarming,” said Palmesano. “Raise the Age passed despite it being obvious it would further endanger public safety. Not only does the law allow 16-and 17-year-olds to evade appropriate consequences for their crimes, it also negatively effects their victims. For individuals that show up in family court, they are perpetually treated as first time offenders due to their records being sealed. Victims are living in constant fear that their assailant will be swiftly released and free to re-offend under current law.”
J. Anthony Jordan, Washington County district attorney and president of the District Attorneys Association of the State of New York, said, “Experience has shown that New York’s ‘Raise The Age’ laws, which result in the removal of many juvenile offenders to family court, have had an adverse impact on public safety. I appreciate lawmakers who have the courage to examine the impact of Raise The Age and introduce legislation designed to address some of the issues with those laws, making it a priority to be fair to our young people while enhancing public safety.”
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C-Pulaski) introduced legislation that will prevent 16-and 17-year-old offenders who commit serious felonies from escaping criminal liability by being transferred to family court. The legislation would:
- Require any violent felony offense committed by an adolescent offender be maintained in Youth Part of Criminal Court, unless all parties agree to move the case to family court. The current violent felony provision is too narrow and omits several offenses like gang assault or criminal possession of a weapon.
- Include and define “circumstances” that would prevent a non-violent felony case from being moved to family court, should a district attorney prove one or more circumstances exist. The current “extraordinary circumstances” provision is too vague and is eliminated.
- Amend Criminal Procedure Law and the Family Court Act to ensure judges, prosecutors and defense counsel can access documents pertaining to arrests and juvenile delinquency proceedings.
- Require a victim of a crime committed by a person under the age of 18 be notified of the outcome of a case.
“I am proud to co-sponsor this legislation put forth by Leader Barclay,” said Palmesano. “Another sobering statistic from 2021 is that only 9% of 16-and 17-year-old offenders who were arrested for a felony actually received a felony conviction. Gov. Hochul often touts being data-driven in her policymaking. In this case, the data is clear. ‘Raise the Age’ has subjected New Yorkers to increased violence and violent criminals have been able to use a loophole to avoid the criminal justice system. I urge her and my Majority colleagues in the Assembly and state Senate to support our common-sense bill that would reverse the trend of rampant teen violence so we can once and for all put the interests and needs of crime victims and public safety over dangerous and violent offenders.”