ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) – The Albany County District Attorney wants state lawmakers to take another look at New York’s “Raise the Age” law. The law only allows people to be charged as adults in criminal cases if they are 18-years-old.
The law took full effect in 2019, just before the office said it saw a spike in violent felonies across Albany County and statewide. The DA is arguing that these types of crimes should be tried in the Youth/Adolescent Offender Part of County Court, instead of just being transferred to family court, in the interest of public safety.
Under the current statute, the accusations in violent felony cases are reviewed six days after arraignment. To keep the cases in the adolescent offender part of County Court, the DA must prove that the defendant either seriously hurt someone, flashed a gun, or sexually assaulted the victim.
If none of those factors are proven, the County is required to file a motion showing “extraordinary circumstances” within 30 days to justify keeping the case. However, “extraordinary circumstances” is not legally defined, the office said, making it extremely difficult to meet the burden of proof.
In light of this pattern, the office is asking the Legislature to intervene. Specifically, DA David Soares wants defendants to have the option to be tried as adults if they’re 16 or 17-years-old if they commit a violent felony as defined by the Penal Law.
If this demand is not met, the office would like the Legislature to create a legal definition of “extraordinary circumstances.” They would also like legislative officials to allow the family court history of an arrestee to be considered when assessing “extraordinary circumstances,” and create a method for the DA to appeal decisions made in family court.
“Consequences for one’s actions are not only a public service; they’re also a service to the individual. When proper services and consequences are absent, offenders sometimes commit more severe offenses down the line. Ultimately, this leads to a worse outcome for the individual,” said the DA’s Office.
The office said it acknowledges that the over-prosecution of youth leads to negative long-term outcomes. However, the office also understands that safety is the main concern of Albany County residents. “Raise the Age, and subsequent legislative changes, have hampered our ability to protect the public from the few who repeatedly degrade the quality of life in our most vulnerable communities,” the office concluded.
Examples of failed “Raise the Age” cases, from the DA’s office: