NEW YORK — A law that prevents all 16- and 17- year olds from automatically being charged as adults in New York, no matter the crime has been thrown back into limbo after budget negotiations by legislators fell apart Wednesday night, days past the deadline, according to reports.
The state's budget, originally due April 1, has been delayed as lawmakers on both sides of the aisle negotiate the specific details in the Raise the Age bill — which would end New York's current status as one of only two states (North Carolina is the other) that prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
Lawmakers had been expected to vote on the budget this week, saying they were close to finished, but on Wednesday evening, Governor Cuomo gave a press conference saying there was no final deal yet on the budget.
"There's bipartisan agreement that the governor is the problem and has subtly sabotaged the negotiations," said Assemblyman Tom Abinanti, D-Westchester County, told the Associated Press.
It remained unclear Thursday morning when budget votes would proceed.
While the specifics of the Raise the Age deal had not yet been released, reports trickled out with early details.
According to the New York Post, the tentative compromise reached late Tuesday would divert all misdemeanor cases to family court, where most cases end without a young person being given a permanent criminal record. All youths charged with felonies would have their cases start out in a special youth section in adult criminal court, but many of the nonviolent felonies would eventually be sent to family court, unless a district attorney argues there are "extraordinary circumstances" that should keep the teen in the youth criminal court.
Violent felonies would be tried in the youth section of the criminal court but could possibly be sent to family court if they meet certain criteria. Under New York law, crimes like stealing a backpack or grabbing a cellphone out of someone's hand are deemed violent. Democratic lawmakers had been pushing for more discretion for young people charged with low-level violent crimes.
According to the New York Times, the violent felonies would be subject to a three-part test: if a deadly weapon is used, if the victim incurred “significant physical injury,” or if the crime was sexual, they would have to stay in youth criminal court. Other cases could potentially move into family court, the Times reported.
The deal would also keep young people from being housed alongside adults in jails — either by placing them in a separate section of an adult jail or moving them to an entirely new facility, the Times reported.
New York City's criminal courts already have youth sections that afford some measure of protections to teens in the adult system, including a Youth Offender status, which means a teen's record can eventually be sealed based on certain criteria.
The city also already separately houses teens from adults in Rikers, but many advocates and lawmakers agree that doesn't go far enough to protect young people. Youth detention facilities are not run by the Department of Correction, and they offer different rehabilitative programming. According to the most recent federal monitor report of the jail, teens in Rikers continue to face high rates of violence at the hands of correction officers. Mayor Bill de Blasio said he plans to move teens off of Rikers and eventually shut Rikers down.
Also not clear yet is whether all teenage suspects' parents will be notified when they are arrested. When children are charged as juveniles, their parents must be notified before they are questioned by authorities, and a guardian must be present if they are interrogated.