New York Raises Juvenile Prosecution Age to 18

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New York State legislators voted Sunday night to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, giving supporters of the measure victory after years of frustration, reports the Juvenile Justice Information Exchange. The vote leaves North Carolina as the only state that still prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. That may change this month. Juvenile justice and mental health experts, backed by research showing that trying minors as adults causes lasting damage to the teens and the community, have succeeded in raising the age to at least 17 in virtually every state. New York had clung to laws charging offenders as young as 16 as adults for even minor offenses. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has spent years pushing for the change, which has been thwarted by concerns about costs and by some lawmakers who felt the measure would lead to an increase in crime.

The campaign was bolstered by advocacy groups led by Jennifer March of Citizens’ Committee for Children-New York, Naomi Post of the Children’s Defense Fund-New York, and Paige Pierce of Families Together. Marc Schindler of the Justice Policy Institute (JPI), said New York was late adopting the age increase despite its reputation as being progressive on justice issues. Last month, JPI issued a study showing that states that have raised the age of criminal responsibility have seen reductions in crime and better outcomes for youth when they are charged as juveniles. The law, which will not take effect until October 2018, means that anyone under 18 charged with crimes will automatically be entered into the juvenile justice system. Prosecutors can still petition to send offenders to the adult system for the most serious crimes.

4 thoughts on “New York Raises Juvenile Prosecution Age to 18

  1. North Carolina is not the only state still prosecuting 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. In Georgia, we automatically prosecute children as young as 13 as adults for seven specified crimes (known as the “seven deadly sins”); discretionary transfer to adult court is available in certain circumstances for 15- and 16-year-olds; and we consider 17-year-olds adults for all crimes, regardless of severity.

    • From the editors: there appears to be some dispute on this point. Readers are welcome to weigh in! According to ‘raise the age’ advocates only New York (until this week) and North Carolina were the holdouts. See: . But a description of Georgia law backs up the reader’s post: “Any child age 17 and over is considered an adult under Georgia law. However, if the juvenile commits the crime on the last day of his/her 16th year, he/she may be treated as an adult, no matter how minor the offense.
      • If the minor is over the age of 13 and is charged with certain violent crimes (e.g., rape, aggravated sexual assault, murder, voluntary manslaughter, armed robbery), the minor is considered an adult and will be tried as such, unless the court deems it appropriate to transfer the case down to juvenile court.
      • If the crime allegedly committed by a minor age 13 and over carries a possible penalty of death or life without parole, the minor must be tried as an adult.”

      • Just as a FYI, I am a lawyer and the Director of Law-Related Education at the State Bar of Georgia. I teach hundreds of students each year about Georgia’s laws on delinquency and unruliness, including SB440’s automatic transfer provisions. We tried to eliminate the seven deadly sins or, at least, raise the minimum age for adult prosecution to 14 when we completely rehauled Georgia’s juvenile justice code in 2013, but those changes were rejected by the Georgia General Assembly.

      • According to Vivian Murphy, who states in The Kansas City Star that she is “the former director of the Missouri Juvenile Justice Association and a former juvenile officer, “Missouri is one of just seven remaining states that consider all 17-year-olds as criminally responsible adults, no matter how minor the offense (emphasis added).” See

        Perhaps the editors should revise their article to state, “According to Raise the Age NY, the vote leaves North Carolina as the only state that still prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.”

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