As a result of new legislation effective October 1st, 2017, the vast majority of cases involving 16 and 17-year-olds will be heard in Family Court and not in Criminal Court. Youth cases heard in the Family Court will be processed pursuant to existing Juvenile Delinquency (JD) laws which includes the opportunity for adjustment. They will not have a permanent criminal record. Key components of the legislation are as follows:
- Parents must be notified when their children are arrested.
- Questioning of youth must take place in an age-appropriate setting with parental involvement (including with regards to waiving Miranda rights) and for developmentally appropriate lengths of time.
- The vast majority of cases of 16- and 17-year-olds will ultimately be heard in the Family Court, either originating there or being transferred there from the new Youth Part of the adult criminal court.
- All misdemeanor cases (other than vehicle and traffic law misdemeanors) will be heard in Family Court pursuant to the Family Court Act. This includes Family Court Act procedures for adjustment and confidential records.
- All felony cases will start in the Youth Part of the adult criminal court.
- All non-violent felonies will be transferred from the Youth Part to the Family Court unless the District Attorney (DA) files a motion within 30 days showing “extraordinary circumstances” as to why the case should remain in the Youth Part. If the DA files a motion, there can be a hearing and the Judge must decide within 5 days of the hearing or motions whether to prevent the transfer of the case to Family Court.
- Violent felonies can also be transferred from the Youth Part to the Family Court. If the charges do NOT include the accused displaying a deadly weapon in furtherance of the offense, causing significant physical injury, or engaging in unlawful sexual conduct, the case will transfer to Family Court unless the DA files a motion within 30 days showing “extraordinary circumstances” as to why the case should remain in the Youth Part. If the charge does include an element listed above, removal to Family Court is only possible with consent of the DA. Vehicle and Traffic Law cases and Class A felonies other than Class A drug offenses cannot be transferred.
- 16 and 17-year-olds whose cases remain in the Youth Part will be referred to as “Adolescent Offenders”. Adult sentencing will apply, but the Judge must take the youth’s age into account when sentencing. Adolescent Offenders are eligible for Youthful Offender treatment, as is the current law with respect to 16 and 17-year-olds charged as adults.
- Adolescent offenders may voluntarily participate in services while their case is pending.
- Violations will be heard in adult criminal/local courts, as is the current law.
Youth Part of Adult Court:
- New “Youth Parts” will be created. All 13- to 15-year old Juvenile Offenders and all 16- and 17-year old Adolescent Offenders will have their cases in the Youth Part.
- Family Court Judges will preside over cases in the Youth Parts.
- No 16-17-year-old will be sentenced to or detained in a facility with adults. To the extent practicable, no youth under 18-year-olds will be held at Rikers by 4/1/18 and as of 10/1 /18, a full prohibition against youth under the age of 18-year-olds being held at Rikers will be in effect.
- Youth whose cases are heard in Family Court will be detained or placed in OCFS-operated, OCFS-licensed, or ACS facilities (including Close to Home), as Juvenile Delinquents currently are.
- Adolescent Offenders who are detained pre-trial will be held in a specialized secure juvenile detention center for older youth, which will be certified and regulated by OCFS in conjunction with the state commission of correction. Judges have the discretion to order that Adolescent Off enders who are sentenced to less than a year serve such sentences in a specialized juvenile detention center for older youth.
- Adolescent Offenders who are sentenced to state imprisonment will be placed in an Adolescent Offender facility developed by the state with enhanced security operated by DOCCS, and managed by OFCS.
- The Youthful Offender (YO) laws remain the same.