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Juveniles Prosecuted as Adults

Generally, juveniles are offered more leniency in the New York Penal System due to their age. Recent laws have been passed to raise the age of prosecution to keep the youth out of the adult criminal justice system. However, in some cases, due to the severity of the crime, juveniles may be tried as an adult and face much stronger sentencing.

In the following article, we’ll go over the cases in which juveniles can be tried as an adult and the general process for trying juveniles in New York.

Juveniles Prosecuted as Adults

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Juvenile Court Procedures

Typically, children who are ten or younger are not charged in the juvenile justice system. Most of the cases in juvenile court involve children who are 13, 14, or 15. It is possible for a child as young as 11 or 12 years old to be brought into the system. A young person who is 16, 17 or 18 years old will have his or her case resolved in adult court.

Out of all 50 states, only New York and North Carolina set the age of adult criminal responsibility at 16. Most states set the age at 18. Only 11 states set the age at 17. Each year in the State of New York, nearly 50,000 young people who are 16 or 17 years old end up facing criminal charges.

Under the Nassau County Adolescent Diversion Program, teenagers who are 16 and 17 years old are sent to special courts with judges trained in dealing with the specific issues these adolescents face.

The Nassau County Family Court

Juvenile delinquency cases are heard in Family Court. In Nassau County, these cases are heard at the Nassau County Family Court located at:
Nassau County Family Court
1200 Old Country Road
Westbury, New York 11590

In some very serious cases, a child who is 13, 14 or 15 years old will be treated as an adult and have his or her case heard in Supreme Court. It is possible for the case to ultimately be transferred by to Family Court. If the child is convicted of a crime in Superior Court then he or she is called a “juvenile offender” instead of a “juvenile delinquent.”

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Raise the Age

The state of New York has passed multiple Raise the Age laws (Oct 1., 2018 and Oct. 1, 2019) that seek to raise the automatic age of prosecution for juveniles. Prior to the passage of the RTA laws, juveniles who meet certain felony offenses would be tried as adults – after RTA’s passage, judges have the discretion to send violent and felony juveniles to criminal court, otherwise the juveniles will go through the juvenile disciplinary process.

Violent Felonies

Adolescent offenders charged with violent felonies can be sent to family court if the court allows it. The juvenile cannot be sent to Family Court if they are charged with any of the following:

  • Displaying a firearm or deadly weapon
  • Causing significant physical injury
  • Sex offenses

Violent felony cases involving any of the above three elements must remain in the Youth Part unless the District Attorney consents to removal to Family Court. Violent felony cases that do not involve any of the above three elements may remain in the Youth Part if the District Attorney proves to the Court that “extraordinary circumstances” exist.
Vehicle and Traffic Law misdemeanor charges cannot be sent to Family Court. Instead, the offender might be sent to local court.

Non-Violent Felonies

Adolescent Offenders who are charged with non-violent felonies will be sent to the Family Court unless the District Attorney files a motion within 30 days asking the court to keep the case in the Youth Part due to “extraordinary circumstances.” If the District Attorney files a motion, the defendant has a chance to file papers opposing the motion. A hearing may be held. The Judge must decide if the case should be sent to the Family Court within 5 days of the hearing or motion.

Juvenile Classification

Juveniles are classified differently depending on the level of crime committed.

  • Juvenile Offenders – 16 and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors are classified as juvenile delinquents and their cases are decided in Family Court
  • Juvenile Delinquents – 16 and 17-year-olds charged with felonies are considered adolescent offenders and may be considered juvenile delinquents if their case is removed from the Youth Part in Supreme or County Court to Family Court.
  • Adults – 16 and 17-year-olds charged with misdemeanors under the vehicle and traffic law are treated as adults.

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Additional Resources

Nassau County Juvenile Defense Bureau – Nassau County explains its juvenile defense process and how it handles juvenile cases. The county also clarifies that all non-violent felonies are transferred to family court and advises families to retain a lawyer in the case of arrest or warrant.

Juvenile Justice and Opportunities for Youth The Office of Youth Programs and Services offers behavioral health treatment while the juvenile is in custody. These treatments include addiction, sexual harm and general mental health. They also provide outreach initiatives to communities around New York.

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Finding a Juvenile Defense Attorney for Nassau County

If your child was arrested for a criminal offense in Long Island, contact the Law Office of Stephanie Selloni to discuss the case. Stephanie Selloni is experienced in representing juveniles in Family Court for Nassau County, Suffolk County, Garden City, Floral Park, Hempstead, Mineola, and the surrounding areas.

Call us at (516) 972-1212 to discuss the case today.

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