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2018-10-10 / Front Page

Justice System Reform Raises Age of Criminal Prosecution of Youth

Del Co Youth Court Formed, Probation Caseload to Increase
By Lillian Browne

DELHI - Sixteen-year-olds who commit crimes after Oct. 1 will no longer be part of the adult criminal justice system in Delaware County. Instead, the newly enacted “Raise the Age” law will place those children in age-appropriate settings, in the Youth Part of the Delaware County Court and under the supervision of probation.

The new law is hoped to reduce the recurrence of repeat offenses, according to a press release issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s office on Oct. 1.

Sixteen-year-olds who are arrested for non-violent felony offenses and misdemeanors, will now have the same opportunities as 15-year-olds and under, who are treated with diversion and community-based services.

According to Delaware County Probation Director Scott Glueckert, the process for the law change began years ago, however, implementation needed to catch up to the legislation. New York and North Carolina were the last remaining states in the country to hold 16-year-olds criminally accountable, Glueckert said.

Prior to the law change, children between the ages of seven and 15 who committed criminal acts were considered juvenile delinquents and were dealt with through Delaware County Family Court. The probation department had a role in those cases in that staff screened the children for eligibility for diversion - which means if the child in that age range admitted to committing a crime and agreed to supervision, they would not have to go to Family Court.

Now, 16-year-olds are eligible for that same treatment.

Prior to Oct. 1, 16-yearolds and older, charged with a crime, would be processed in a local criminal justice court (town or village courts) for an arraignment for an official reading of the charges brought against them. Now, if a 16 year old is charged with a misdemeanor, they will go through the Family

Court process starting with the probation department.

If a 16-year-olds is accused of committing a felony, they will now be processed in the Youth Part of Delaware County Court, or Youth Court.

Delaware County Family, County and Surrogate Court Judge Gary Rosa is the presiding judge in that court.

Once a 16-year-old is charged with a felony, the District Attorney’s office has 30 days to decide whether to keep the case in Youth Court as a criminal case or to remove it to Family Court where it would screened for possible diversion.

There is certain criteria that would make the case eligible for Youth Court including the use of a weapon, whether there was significant physical injury or if it was a sexually violent crime. If those criteria are not met, Glueckert said, the case can be removed to be dealt with through Family Court. Once in Family Court, the case may be determined to be eligible and suitable for diversion services through the probation department which must be disposed of within four months. If after four months the child has not successfully completed the requirements of diversion services, they may be returned for Family Court intervention.

During those four months of diversion ‘adjustment,’ Glueckert said, those children must comply with certain conditions, like getting a drug or alcohol evaluation and attending school.

Diversion is an alternative path to correcting behavior. Once diversion is successfully completed, the case, including all police records, are sealed. This avenue of dealing with children as juvenile delinquents, though it will increase the case load for probation officers, has many benefits, including the hope of fewer future interactions with children who are charged with offenses and more rapid dispositions to charges.

Prior to the law change, children could be placed on probation through the criminal court for three years; whereas now their cases may be finished within four months.

There is no retroactive period with regard to the new law, Glueckert said, but he is hopeful it will remove people from the criminal justice system in the future.

Financial Impacts to Delaware County

The costs incurred by Delaware

County to comply with the new law will be reimbursed completely by New York state, Glueckert said. Right now, he said, the county has enough staffing and programming to dedicate to the impacted demographic. However, he said, Delaware County is so geographically large that it is hard to monitor the demographic with just one juvenile officer - which is what the department has. His department has applied to the state for reimbursement for the costs associated with a second juvenile probation officer.

Statistically Speaking

As of Oct. 1, there have been no 16-year-olds arrested who would be eligible to be treated under the new law. In 2017, between January and June, there were 15 children in Delaware County ages 16 or 17 charged with misdemeanor and/or felony crimes.

That number has nearly doubled this year, with 28 Delaware County children in the age range during that time, charged with crimes. Last year, Glueckert said, his department would have likely been involved with some of those cases. Now his department will be involved in all of those cases.

The bigger picture, he said, is keeping children from going to adult jails, prisons or detention facilities.

The legislation was passed as part of the state’s 2018 budget and was implemented with guidance from the Office of Children and Family Services, Division of Criminal Justice Services, state Commission of Corrections, Department of Corrections and Community Supervision and Office of Court Administration.

A Caveat

New York will reimburse counties for 100 percent of costs if overall spending remains under the two percent tax cap. Counties that exceed the cap can receive full reimbursement upon demonstrating financial hardship.

Children who were incarcerated prior to the enactment of the new law can apply to have records sealed 10 years from their release date if they have had no arrests as of Aug. 31, 2018.

This law will extend to include 17-year-olds on Oct. 1, 2019.

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