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Raise the Age

Do you remember ‘Bewitched” with Samantha and Darren Stephens, Tabitha, and Aunt Clara (really, who could forget Aunt Clara!)?   Not everyone will remember, but for those of us who do, it was an amazing show, unlike anything we had seen before. Incredible things happened right on the screen with seamless ease and unexplained magical action!

Such magic is very similar to what will start happening later this fall and over the next eighteen months that follow. Magically, actions that were considered crimes for sixteen and seventeen year old persons will now not be crimes! That is amazing!

This is the result of a new law signed by Governor Cuomo on April 10, 2017. The entire law can be found in A-3009c/S-2009c Part WWW.

The “Raise the Age” law essentially states that after certain dates, sixteen and seventeen year old persons will no longer be processed as criminal defendants for most crimes allegedly committed. They can still be arrested, of course, but the legal cases will now be referred to Family Court and handled through Family Court as Juvenile Delinquent cases. This means there will not be a criminal record following these young persons for the rest of their lives, nor can they be housed in secure facilities where adults are incarcerated, so they can’t be held in the county jails. There is even a provision that allows for persons found to be Juvenile Delinquents under this new law to get the record sealed!

The law is being slowly phased in. As of October 6, 2017, the ‘sealing’ part of the law goes into effect, essentially starting the clock running for the time line that will apply to sealing the records. Then on October 1, 2018, the new law will apply to sixteen year old persons. Finally, on October 1, 2019,  seventeen year old persons will have the benefit of the referral to Family Court.

By placing these cases into the Family Court defendants have access to the broader sanctions and dispositions available through that court, which are often community based and more support-centered. There are exceptions to placing all minors in Family Court, of course. The new law not does not apply to any ‘A’ level felony crime, and the local District Attorney can make a motion based on extraordinary circumstances, within 30 days of a person’s arrest, to have the case proceed in criminal court.

Interestingly, this new law was submitted and signed as part of the State Budget!  There are reasons for that, as it is anticipated that the cost savings to New York State from not incarcerating as many sixteen and seventeen year old persons will save the State a vast amount of money. But is it enough to justify the increases to the judicial process in Family Court that will follow? Perhaps…we shall see.

There are many details that still need finalizing by the State Judiciary and related agencies, as the new processes and procedures come into effect.  The attorneys at Tully Rinckey, PLLC represent persons in all types of Family Court cases, as well as criminal matters and much more, but you can be sure that our firm is ready to represent  families and minors presented with the new challenges resulting from ‘Raise the Law’.

Christine Redfield, Esq. is a family and matrimonial attorney at Tully Rinckey PLLC’s Rochester office.

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