New York is considering raising the age of criminal responsibility for most crimes from 16 to 18.

Among the proposals in this year’s state budget is one that many legal experts say New York is long overdue: raising the age of criminal responsibility. According to WHEC News, the proposal would raise the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18. If passed, the change would mean that those aged 16 and 17 would be more likely to be charged in juvenile court, where they would have more access to rehabilitative programs, and not be subjected to a criminal record.

Raising the criminal age

New York is one of only two states (the other being North Carolina) where 16- and 17-year-old teenagers are routinely tried as adults in the criminal court system. The proposal in the state budget would raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18, which would bring New York in line with most other states. If passed, the change would mean that 16- and 17-year-olds charged with a misdemeanor or non-violent felony would be charged as juveniles and tried in family courts. Those charged with a violent felony would still be charged as adults. By going through the juvenile system, offenders would have more access to rehabilitative programs and not be saddled with a conviction.

Support and opposition

This year is not the first time New York has attempted to raise the age of criminal responsibility. A similar proposal was made last year but was ultimately defeated over fears that the change would create a backlog of cases in family courts and would prove to be too expensive for taxpayers. Concerns were also raised about whether the state had sufficient space in its juvenile facilities to house the expected influx of new inmates.

While those concerns remain, lawmakers have at least expressed more willingness this year to consider the proposal, according to the Democrat & Chronicle. Supporters of the change say that sending offenders who are as young as 16 and 17 to adult prisons has little benefit either for the offenders or for society as a whole. They point to studies that have shown a higher suicide rate among teenagers in adult correctional facilities as well as a higher recidivism rate. By focusing on rehabilitation programs, supporters of raising the age of criminal responsibility say that young offenders will have more opportunities to avoid a life of crime, thus making society safer as well.

Criminal defense

Regardless of one’s age, being charged with a criminal offense is a frightening and tumultuous ordeal. In many cases, the consequences of a conviction could be dire and may include prison time, fines, penalties, and a criminal record that could limit one’s employment, educational, and financial opportunities. Because of these risks anybody charged with a crime needs to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately who can help mount a vigorous defense and fight for the rights of the accused.

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