The FY 2018 State Budget raises the age of criminal responsibility to 18 years of age and ensures that young people who commit non-violent crimes receive the intervention and evidence-based treatment they need. New York was previously one of only two states in the nation that automatically processed all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system, no matter their offense.
The new measures will be phased in over time, with the law taking effect for 16-year-olds on October 1, 2018, and 17-year-olds on October 1, 2019.
New York’s youth will no longer be housed in adult prisons or jails, including Rikers Island in New York City. Instead, they will be placed in specialized juvenile detention facilities certified by the State Office of Children and Family Services, in conjunction with the State Commission of Correction.
The State will also create a Raise the Age Implementation Task Force, with members designated by the Governor. Additionally, individuals who have lived crime free for ten years after completing their sentence for a non-violent crime will be able to apply for the sealing of previous criminal convictions.
As part of the FY 2018 Budget, Governor Cuomo signed legislation that requires law enforcement to video-record the custodial interrogations of individuals accused of serious offenses. This best practice will prevent wrongful convictions and protect law enforcement from fallacious allegations of wrongdoing or coercion. Consequently, evidence will be more reliable to ensure guilty individuals are convicted and innocent individuals are exonerated.
The FY 2018 Budget enables the use of photo identifications made by witnesses at trial when the identification procedures were conducted using proper safeguards, such as a ‘blind’ or ‘double blind’ administration. Juries will now be able to consider photo identifications, which are considered by many experts to be the most reliable form of identification evidence when obtained close to the time of a crime.
This legislation protects against wrongful convictions and ensures criminals are held responsible for their actions.
The provision of quality criminal defense to individuals who cannot otherwise afford counsel is of paramount importance, as the United States Supreme Court ruled in Gideon v. Wainwright. In 2014, the State successfully negotiated an agreement in Hurrell-Harring et al. v. State of New York et al., a lawsuit filed against the State and five counties based upon an alleged failure to provide the necessary level of indigent defense services in those counties, to require the provision of indigent defense services in those counties.
To ensure fair and equal representation for all New Yorkers, the FY 2018 Budget includes the necessary resources for the State to fund 100 percent of the costs needed to extend the reforms provided for in the Hurrell-Harring settlement to all 62 counties in New York.