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Bill could reduce youths getting charged as adults

It may surprise our readers to learn that virtually no state is as tough on juveniles accused of a crime as New York. We are one of just two states to automatically charge 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in every case.

This means that teenagers arrested for theft and other nonviolent crimes often end up jailed at Rikers Island, a notoriously violent and dangerous place. For years, many lawmakers have sought to change the law to raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18. That goal now appears to be closer than ever.

According to DNA info, part of the budget bill proposed by Gov. Andrew Cuomo and currently working its way through the New York State Assembly would end adult charges for 16- and 17-year-olds in cases involving misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

The bill, called Raise the Age, appears to have the votes to pass as part of the larger budget package, lawmakers say. However, there are critics on both sides. Some say putting 16- and 17-year-olds through the juvenile system will put public safety at risk. Others say Raise the Age does not go far enough, because it excludes many "violent" crimes like second degree robbery. A second degree robbery charge can result from stealing a backpack.

If it becomes law, Raise the Age will dramatically change the process of charging teens with a crime. New York criminal law is constantly in flux, and it is vital that anyone facing charges have a knowledgeable defense attorney to help you fight them.

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