In many US states, 16 and 17 year old adolescents are too young to vote, buy a lotto ticket, drink alcohol, smoke, join the military or even go to a tanning booth without adult supervision. However, in New York, before the recent passage of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s 2017 budget, they were old enough to get charged in criminal courts as adults. Moreover, children as young as 13 and 15 were, in some special circumstances, charged in adult criminal courts for delinquent acts.

Criminal defense lawyers disapprove of charging teens as adults, for reasons you’ll see below.

The Facts On Teenage Prosecution And Incarceration In New York

Before April 2017, New York was one of two states in the country that still prosecuted 16 and 17 year olds as adults. The other is North Carolina. How did this policy play out in criminal courts in New York?

  • Close to 28,000 children between the ages of 16 and 17 were arrested and faced prosecution in adult courts every year, 72 percent of whom faced adult criminal prosecution for misdemeanors such as shoplifting. Of those who were ultimately incarcerated, 80 percent were black and Latino.
  • Over 600 children between age 13 and 15 were processed in adult criminal courts
The result? Many of these children had criminal records even before they completed high school, severely impacting their chances of entering college, getting a job or even getting a mortgage.

Has Treating Juveniles As Adults Been Successful?


Absolutely not. In fact, it may have made things worse and jeopardized public safety.

The goal of the juvenile system is very different from that of the adult system. While the juvenile system aims to rehabilitate delinquents, the adult system leans more toward punishment. Therefore, minors incarcerated in facilities for adults are more prone to physical and psychological abuse.

Studies show that:

  • Upon release, minors incarcerated as adults were 34 percent more likely to be rearrested for violent crimes as compared to those retained in juvenile facilities.
  • An estimated 80 percent of youth from adult prisons committed another offense after release, often more serious offenses.
  • Minors in adult prisons were two times more likely to be assaulted by prison staff as compared to children retained in juvenile systems. They also face a higher risk of sexual assault.
  • Minors in adult prisons lack age-appropriate resources for rehabilitation.

What Science Tells Us About Adolescent Incarcerations

Brain development researchers have reported that the brain does not develop fully until age 25. Therefore, adolescents are still children.

Research has also shown that the cognitive skills of teens are not fully mature. They are not fully capable of processing the consequences of their actions. This explains teens’ penchant for impulsive behavior


Why The Juvenile System Is Much Better Than The Adult Criminal Courts


Brain development researchers have reported that the brain does not develop fully until age 25. Therefore, adolescents are still children.

Research has also shown that the cognitive skills of teens are not fully mature. They are not fully capable of processing the consequences of their actions. This explains teens’ penchant for impulsive behavior


The Way Forward

After the passing of Gov. Cuomo’s Raise The Age policy, the minimum age for adult criminal prosecution will be 18. The age-increase will be stretched out until 2020.

If you have been accused of a crime, contact the criminal defense attorneys at Ianniello Anderson, P.C. today to better understand your rights.