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Will New York's criminal responsibility age go up?

Readers of this criminal defense blog may not be aware that currently, only New York and one other state set the age at which a person can be held criminally responsible as low as 16. However, a proposal has been made that aims to change New York's age of criminal responsibility.

New York's Governor Cuomo has proposed that the age at which a person can be held criminally responsible increase. Right now, a person who is 16 years old or older can be held criminally responsible. Under the governor's proposal, the age gradually would increase to 18. The law would be phased in over time. In 2017, the age would be increased to 17 and then in 2018, the age would increase to 18.

The governor reported several reasons for the proposed change. First, other states that have increased the age at which a person can be held criminally responsible have seen decreases in juvenile crime rates, particularly if the juvenile is provided with mental health services or other related services. In addition, some believe that the current law affects young men of color in a disproportionate manner, impacting communities throughout New York. Also, research has shown that sending adolescents into adult prisons negatively affects the adolescents, increasing the rates of recidivism and suicide. Finally, scientific research indicates that an adolescent's brain is not fully developed, particularly when it comes to exercising judgment.

As this research shows, special consideration needs to be taken into account when it comes to juvenile crime. In many juvenile law cases, the accused may not have the mental capacity to commit the alleged crime. In addition, it can be harmful for a juvenile to be housed in the same prisons as adults. For these reasons and more, some feel a change in the age at which a person can be held criminally responsible may be in order.

Source: New City Patch, "Gov. Cuomo Seeks to Raise the Age of Criminal Responsibility," Alfred Branch, Jan. 20, 2015

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