Assembly Minority Conference Calls for Changes to “Raise the Age” Legislation
Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C-Pulaski) and members of the Minority Conference held a special press conference on March 23 to announce legislation to reform the flawed “Raise the Age” and improve the level of accountability for those who commit violent felony crimes. The Minority Conference held a press conference today in Albany and was joined by district attorneys who have continued to point out the problems with the law since its passage in the 2017-2018 state budget.
“For years we’ve seen a steady drumbeat of radical, liberal policies that have enabled crimes to be committed with little accountability. It makes our streets more dangerous, it makes law enforcement more difficult and it undermines a justice system that is supposed to protect the innocent,” Barclay said. “We don’t need to throw out the law entirely, but we need to fix what isn’t working. As with most progressive policymaking, Raise the Age went too far and created a system where young people commit violent crimes and face little to no consequences. We need to remedy that immediately.”
The legislation introduced by Barclay and the Minority Conference:
- Requires that any violent felony offense committed by an adolescent offender be maintained in youth-part 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.
- Includes and defines “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” are too vague and are eliminated.
- Amends Criminal Procedure Law and Family Court Act to ensure judges, prosecutors and defense counsels can access documents pertaining to arrests and juvenile delinquency proceedings.
- Requires a victim of a crime committed by a person under the age of 18 be notified of the outcome of a case.
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.”
Albany County DA David Soares said, “The actual impact of Raise the Age has betrayed its noble intent by minimizing accountability for serious crimes committed by young people. If we all agree that young people are sometimes error-prone due to their stage of development, we should also agree that oversight, guidance, and sometimes punishment, are appropriate to ensure course correction. Victims of crime should be prioritized in legal proceedings, and addressing this law, which has directly resulted in additional violence, shows respect for victims of crime. I applaud any lawmakers who stand with me on that truth.”
“The Raise the Age law places significant restrictions on a prosecutor’s ability to seek appropriate punishment for violent and sometimes deadly crimes that have been committed by 16-and-17-year-olds,” said Saratoga County DA Karen Heggen. “In the interest and pursuit of justice, sensible reforms can go a long way to ensure that violent felonies, no matter what age the alleged criminal is, can be prosecuted appropriately and fairly.”
Orange County DA David Hoovler said, “The proposed legislation makes reasonable adjustments to a system that operates under the radar of the public. Rehabilitation of younger offenders is the key, but the process must strike a balance with public safety and victims’ rights. This piece of legislation reasonably achieves those goals.”
“Governor Hochul and majority leaders in Albany are constantly gaslighting law-abiding New Yorkers when standing on their soap boxes pretending to care about gun violence when the biggest reason – the ‘Raise The Age’ law – stares them right in the face,” said Jennifer Harrison, founder of Victims’ Rights NY. “It’s time to stop blurting out talking points and take the necessary action to protect children in underserved communities who suffer endlessly due to this insanity.”
Assemblywoman Mary Beth Walsh (R,C-Ballston) said, “Since Raise the Age went into effect in October of 2019, we have had the opportunity to see it in practice and recognize that adjustments are sorely needed to ensure that the most serious adolescent offenders are adjudicated in criminal court and that judges, prosecutors and defense counsel have the background information on each defendant to make the best possible recommendation. As a practicing family court attorney for over a decade, I believe that the legislation introduced today will take necessary steps to address a law that fails to hold violent offenders accountable.”
“There’s no denying it: New York is in the midst of a crime crisis and it’s because of the shortsighted, illogical, and radical policies passed by this Legislature,” said Assemblyman Mike Reilly (R-Staten Island). “We desperately need to fix the state’s broken criminal justice system, which prioritizes criminals ahead of law-abiding New Yorkers, and it starts with reforming the ‘Raise the Age’ law. As a former law enforcement officer, I’ve seen firsthand how criminals have manipulated the system using our youth, and I firmly believe that this legislative package will prevent that practice.”
According to 2021 statistics from the state Division of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS), only 8 percent (257 of 3,303) of 16- and 17-year-old offenders arrested for a felony received a felony conviction. Less than half of those receiving a felony conviction were sentenced to more than a year’s confinement in an Office of Children and Family Services facility, despite the fact that the felony charges for adolescent offenders included: 112 for homicide; 80 for sex offenses; 691 for robbery; 213 for burglary; 20 for making a terroristic threat; and 587 for firearms or dangerous weapon offenses.
According to the New York City Police Department, since the passage of Raise the Age, gun crimes have increased by 200 percent. According to the Assembly Majority, raising the age of criminal responsibility to 18 has severely diminished the ability of district attorneys to prosecute serious, violent cases in youth-part criminal court. In 2020, 91 percent of felony cases involving adolescent offenders were moved to family court or probation. In 2021, 83 percent of adolescent offender felony crimes were moved to family court.