NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION ENCOURAGED BY CHIEF
JUDGE’S PROPOSAL TO RAISE THE AGE AT WHICH A CHILD CAN BE CHARGED
WITH NONVIOLENT CRIME
The New York State Bar Association commends Chief Judge Jonathan
Lippman for calling on the state Legislature and Governor to raise the
age of criminal responsibility from 16 to 18 years old.
“We are encouraged by the Chief Judge’s leadership on
this issue,” said Seymour W. James, Jr., President-elect of the
State Bar Association. “New York is one of only two states that
prosecute 16-year-old children accused of nonviolent crimes in adult
courts. The State Bar Association has advocated for reform and will
continue its efforts to change the law.”
“Research demonstrates that 16- and 17-year-old kids lack the
maturity and judgment to understand the legal consequences of their
actions,” said James (attorney-in-charge of criminal practice for
the Legal Aid Society in New York City). “Additionally, children
who are incarcerated in adult jails are more likely to commit crimes
“The consequences of being convicted of a nonviolent crime can
last a lifetime, affecting an individual’s future education and
employment,” James noted.
In New York, with the exception of the most violent felony cases,
children under 16 are referred to family court, where judges, working
with social service agencies, emphasize treatment and rehabilitation and
their records are sealed.
Nationally, 37 states set the age of criminal responsibility at
18. Eleven set it at age 17. Only New York and North
Carolina prosecute 16-year-olds accused of nonviolent crimes as
“Every year, about 45,000 to 50,000 youths aged 16 and 17 are
arrested in New York and prosecuted as adults in our criminal
courts—overwhelmingly for minor crimes,” Lippman said today
in a speech before the Citizens Crime Commission in New York City.
“Put simply, the adult criminal justice system is not designed to
address the special problems and needs of 16 and 17-year-olds.
Prosecuting these adolescents as adults in the criminal courts does not
improve public safety or quality of life in our communities.”
Lippman proposes transferring the cases of nonviolent defendants
under 18 to Family Court, a process that would require a change in state
law. In the meantime, he plans to implement a pilot program
involving the transfer of cases of nonviolent defendants under 18 to
criminal courts with new adolescent intervention programs.
Lippman emphasized the changes he proposes would not affect
adolescents accused of violent crimes. Under the law, a 13-year-old
accused of murder can be charged as an adult. For other major
violent felonies, the age of criminal responsibility begins at 14.
The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest
voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in
NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION, ONE ELK STREET, ALBANY, NY 12207 PH: (518) 463-3200 SECURE FX: (518) 463-5993