Sara V. Gomes


With New York’s enactment of the Raise the Age law, the State’s Legislature codified the omnipresent notion that juveniles processed in the criminal justice system should be treated differently than adults given that they are inherently less culpable for a multitude of reasons, both measurable and incalculable. Flaws emanating from the minutiae of the Raise the Age law have surfaced since it became effective on October 1, 2018, as criminal matters involving sixteen-year-old offenders have been adjudicated in courts following the newly introduced procedures for removal of cases involving these youth to Family Court, or the newly-created Youth Part. Simultaneously, adjudications of matters in which applicants have turned to the courts to seal their criminal convictions pursuant to the Raise the Age legislation have also revealed gaps between the law’s intent and its execution since implementation. Presiding judges have responded by bridging the gap between the legislation and its execution from the bench in accordance with the progressive, rehabilitative orientation of the Raise the Age law through developing case law. This Article will first provide background regarding New York’s juvenile justice system, which provides context for the introduction and recent enactment of the Raise the Age law, before explaining the complexities of the legislation itself. Further, it will comment on periods of New York’s extensive, dynamic history of juvenile justice which has reflected social mores through present day. Furthermore, this article will delve into several key provisions and consequent issues materializing in the courts under these provisions, which may endure into the second phase of implementation of the Law for seventeen-year-old offenders as of October 1, 2019. Finally, this article will suggest that the New York State Legislature should amend the Raise the Age legislation in order to better facilitate processing of sixteen- and seventeen-year-old offenders’ matters, and sealing applications, respectively, under the law’s new provisions. It is vital to the legislation’s permanency to precisely mirror the ubiquitous concept embodied in the spirit of the Raise the Age legislation and the movement that preceded it: that adolescents are simply different than adult offenders, and their status as such should be accorded deference by the courts of the State.

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