Assembly members Hawley, Norris join effort to end ‘Raise the Age’ law

Posted 23 March 2023 at 12:37 pm

Press Releases from offices of Assemblymen Steve Hawley and Mike Norris

From Steve Hawley:

Assemblyman Steve Hawley (R,C-Batavia) joined a coalition of assembly members and district attorneys from across the state and on both sides of the political aisle, to call for an end to the dangerous ”Raise the Age” law that has been in place in New York since 2018.

The law was designed to keep 16- and 17-year-olds arrested for violent felonies from being convicted of those felonies by keeping their cases in family court rather than the Youth Part of the Superior Court.

The felonies that fall under this category range from sex offenses to dangerous weapon offenses and even making terroristic threats. This law has provided a loophole for more organized crime by providing an incentive to recruit adolescents into their fold, as their sentences often end up being lighter and their records sealed in family court. Hawley wants to close this loophole.

“Violent crime is violent crime, plain and simple, and if adolescents are going to commit violent crime they must face consequences,” Hawley said. “It’s an unfortunate feedback loop that kids are being indoctrinated into criminal activity because of the way the law is written to leave them facing minor consequences, and it falls to the state government to close that loop before more people get hurt.”

According to the Department of Criminal Justice Services, in 2021 only 257 of the 3,303 arrests of adolescents for violent crime received a conviction. Those arrested include 112 cases of homicide, 80 cases for sexual offenses, 587 cases for firearm offenses, 691 cases for robbery, 213 cases for burglary and 20 cases for making a terroristic threat.

“This law treats the offender as the primary victim rather than those who are afflicted by the committed crimes. It is wrong to continue operating this state in this way. We must repeal Raise the Age,” Hawley concluded.

From Mike Norris:

Assemblyman Mike Norris (R,C-Lockport) joined Assembly Minority Leader Will Barclay (R,C-Pulaski), members of their conference, district attorneys and law enforcement from across the state at a press conference today in the State Capitol calling for reforms the policy known as “Raise the Age.” First enacted in the 2017-18 State Budget, Raise the Age is a series of policies that ultimately raised the age of criminal responsibility in New York state from 16 to 18, even in violent felony cases.

“I voted against Raise the Age knowing the adverse impact this law would have on public safety and holding violent criminals responsible for their actions,” Norris said.

Raise the Age has also led to violent, felony offenders being processed the same as juvenile delinquents through family courts, and as such do not face criminal consequences or develop accurate permanent records. If detained, they are housed with other juvenile delinquents under the supervision of the Office of Children and Family Services (OCFS).

“It is crucial people know we are talking about violent offenders, often repeat offenders. These are not kids who made a bad decision. These are young adults who decided to break the law, commit crimes like assault, rape and using guns or other deadly weapons,” said Norris. “These aren’t the ‘one bad decision’ stories. These are the stories of career criminals in the making, and they need to be treated as such — As much for their own welfare as for public safety. If there is any hope for their future, they must learn to face consequences now.”

Before Raise the Age took effect in October of 2018, 59.8% of 16- and 17-year-olds charged with a felony crime were convicted or sentenced. However, after Raise the Age, and 16- and 17-year-olds arrested for felony crimes were processed under the new system, just 9% were convicted or adjudicated.

Essentially, the program has helped enable criminal activity in two ways: by creating a consequence-free revolving door for youthful offenders, and secondly, by creating a grooming opportunity to exploit new recruits. Gangs and drug dealers have taken particular advantage of this lack of accountability.

Among the reforms included the legislation proposed by Norris, Barclay and their colleagues is a change to current law to ensure all violent felony offenders see real consequences for their crimes by being processed through the Youth Part of the Superior Court, instead of through family court. Additionally, their bill allows for these felony-level, violent offenders’ records to be accessed in the future should they continue to pursue a criminal life after they turn 18.