New York Juvenile Crimes: A Quick Look At How The System Works

What age is someone considered a juvenile in New York, can a juvenile’s parents or guardians be held responsible and how are minors charged and sentenced in criminal matters? These are questions that Elliot Schlissel, a New York criminal attorney whose firm represents individuals charged with criminal matters in the greater Manhattan area as well as in Long Island's Nassau and Suffolk counties, gets all the time. He provided the following information about how the juvenile system works in New York:

  • How does New York define a juvenile? An individual will be charged as an adult if they’re 16 or 17 years of age or older. Prosecutors have the ability to charge, in certain circumstances, individuals as adults if they are 13 years or older. If they’re charged as a minor, the case is handled through the family courts. If they’re charged as an adult, the cases are handled through the criminal courts.

    Can a juvenile’s parents or guardians ever be held responsible for the juvenile's actions?/b> They’re responsible for their children, but they can't be sentenced to jail for violating their responsibilities. It’s not a crime to violate their responsibilities, but they can be subject to possible financial penalties. Also, the children can be taken away from them and put into institutions.

    There’s no such thing as juvenile jail, but there are juvenile facilities that young people who break the law can be sentenced to by family court judges. Although they're not called jail, the juvenile facilities are locked-down facilities. In New York State, the theory in juvenile crimes is to rehabilitate the juvenile, while the theory in adult crimes is generally punishment.

  • How are juveniles charged and sentenced in criminal matters? A minor can be charged, under certain circumstances, as an adult. Sixteen and 17 year olds are automatically charged as adults and 13 to 15 year olds may be charged as adults for more serious and violent crimes. If they’re charged as an adult, they’re subject to the same penalties an adult would have.

    The Family Courts in New York State are designed to handle cases involving minors. The most severe penalty that they can usually receive is to be held in a youth facility until either the age of 18 or 21. When a minor is convicted of a crime as an adult, he or she is called a “youthful offender”. It’s a way to seal his or her record. So, when the minor receives a youthful offender status, the record is sealed and it doesn’t show up as a criminal conviction on the minor’s record.

Understanding the system helps kids build a better future

Schlissel says that it's very common for employers to ask whether or not someone has been convicted of a crime on an employment application; checking yes on the employment applications can have a negative impact on future employment. He believes that hiring an experienced New York criminal lawyer who understands how the system works can help kids build a better future. He explained:

Some judges are also more sensitive to young people making mistakes. We are adept when minors are charged with drug crimes in getting them into programs. We have had success avoiding incarceration sentences and obtaining alternate sentencing in many cases. We take action to motivate the district attorney’s offices and the judges to cooperate with us in alternative sentencing schemes other than jail.