To: Governor Andrew Cuomo, The New York State House, and The New York State Senate
Stop trying 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in New York State
In New York State, the age of criminal responsibility, or the age at which an individual can be tried as an adult, is just 16. This petition proposes to raise the age to 18. These 16- and 17-year-old individuals will instead be tried in family courts, where they will benefit from more social services and experience fewer long-term repercussions for their crimes.
Why is this important?
New York's chief judge Jonathan Lippman is planning to propose that 16- and 17-year-olds be tried in family courts. There, their records will be sealed and their chances of being arrested again will decrease. Sign this position to support the change of the age of criminal responsibility in New York from 16 to 18.
New York State is one of only two states in the country in which 16-year-olds are tried as adults. The other is North Carolina, and this year lawmakers there have proposed legislation to move these cases to juvenile courts. In eleven states, the age of criminal responsibility begins at 17. In the 37 remaining states (and the District of Columbia), the age is 18.
Most recent scientific studies support the trial of those under-18 as juveniles, not adults. They have confirmed that the human brain continues to develop into an individual's twenties, and that the frontal lobe remains undeveloped in teenagers, making them less capable of making reasoned decisions, resisting peer pressure, and controlling impulses than adults.
Each year, around 45-50,000 16- and 17-year-olds are tried as adults in New York, with the vast majority of them having committed nonviolent crimes. However, this leads to more recidivism, as adolescents tried as adults are more likely to commit crimes in the future.
The New York State law was established in 1962, when lawmakers passed the Family Court Act. The age was set at 16 as a temporary measure, to be reviewed after research and public hearings were conducted. But it never was, and the issue has never been revisited.