May 27, 2015: State Bar President Lau-Kee Urges Governor, Legislators to Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility to 18

By Communications Department

New York State Bar Association President Glenn Lau-Kee today called on Governor Cuomo and
the state Legislature to enact a bill increasing the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18 years old.

“It is time to raise the age of criminal responsibility. Research demonstrates that 16- and 17-year-old kids lack the maturity and judgment to understand the legal consequences of their actions,” said Lau-Kee. “Children who are incarcerated in adult prisons are more likely to commit crimes in the future.”

“Governor Cuomo’s Commission on Youth, Public Safety and Justice properly highlighted this important issue as one that must be addressed,” Lau-Kee said.  Multiple bills have been recently introduced in the Legislature taking slightly different approaches to achieve the same objective.

“With the end of the legislative session only weeks away, the State Bar Association strongly urges state leaders to resolve their differences and enact legislation to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years of age,” he added.

In New York State, children who are age 16 and over cannot be prosecuted as juveniles in Family Court. Instead, they are prosecuted as adults in the criminal justice system. New York and North Carolina are the only states that still criminally prosecute 16- and 17-year-olds in criminal court.

In 1962, the New York Family Court Act set the age 16 as the threshold of adult criminal jurisdiction. This threshold was deemed to be “tentative” and subject to further study.

Since the law was enacted, subsequent research has shown that children under 18 lack the judgmental capacities of adults. These children would benefit from social and educational services now available only to children under age 16 whose cases are handled by Family Court judges.

“Extending such services to 16- and 17-year-olds both recognizes the needs of children and ensures public safety by reducing recidivism,” Lau-Kee said.

The 74,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. It was founded in 1876.

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