DA, Sheriff Say Raise The Age Law Will Significantly Impact Their Departments

MAYVILLE – Local officials reacted to the Raise The Age legislation that went into effect Monday in New York State. The law will place new rules on how to handle 16-year-olds beginning yesterday, and for 17-year-olds beginning next October 1.
Chautauqua County District Attorney Patrick Swanson told WNYNewsNow that the law will have a tremendous impact throughout the county.
“The law (Raise The Age) will significantly impact this county,” Swanson said. “It will singlehandedly increase the already-high demands on local law enforcement, local, family and surrogate court, the county attorney’s office and my office. The new rules affect how 16 and 17-year-old defendants can be processed, arraigned, transported, housed, prosecuted and sentenced.”
Swanson said that the county averages over 1,000 felonies a year and 5,000 misdemeanors between 2013-17. Of those, more than 26 felonies and more than 71 misdemeanors are committed each year by 16-year-olds and roughly 25 felonies and 72 misdemeanors a year are committed by 17-years-old.
Within that time period, less than five percent of total felonies and less than 2.8 percent of misdemeanors were committed by those age 16 and 17.
Swanson said the law will impact his office’s burden, rather than the prosecution technique.
“It adds to the burden. While on the face, you think that we will be losing 140-plus misdemeanors each year (starting October 1, 2019), those cases take relatively little time and experience to handle. Losing 2.8 percent of our misdemeanor cases will not assist us in any measurable way,” Swanson said. “With respect to felonies, there will be no change in how we handle those cases. They are our cases at the beginning. We need to review them and determine if the charges are sufficient, if they are correct, and now, if we want to petition the Youth Part to keep them.”
“It requires my office to staff it’s 41st court. It requires that I designate an experienced prosecutor to handle those cases. It requires that we pour resources into a case at its inception to ensure that we aren’t letting a serious case slip through to Family Court where there are virtually no consequences. The analysis and litigation for us to keep the case in the Youth Part must happen within 30 days.”
Chautauqua County Sheriff Joe Gerace said the biggest impact the law will have on his office involves the cost of transportation of the teens. Gerace said the cost of transportation is “supposedly” reimbursable by the state, but that also “must be further defined.”
The 16 and 17-year-olds will no longer be able to be co-mingled with adult offenders, and they must be interviewed in an approved area, according to Gerace. They also can’t go to jail, so they must be sent to an approved detention facility if they’re detained by the court. The closest is in Erie County.
If there’s no beds available, they must be transported to Syracuse.
Gerace said that many unanswered questions still exist with the new law. For example, he is trying to determine how to handle a case where the crime was committed before October 1, and they are arrested after that date.
“The law change is very complex and was rushed through the legislature. It will be a work in progress and many interpretations will have to be made along the way,” Gerace said.
Jamestown Police Chief Harry Snellings said the law’s impact on his department is mainly with procedural changes with how his officers handle cases involving 16 and 17-year-olds.

1 Comment

  1. Funny how nobody with any decent level of education & intelligence has their comments stay up on here. You guys need to quit screening & removing comments just because your opinion differs. I’ve had numerous comments not be posted and I’m assuming it’s because of my conservative opinion.

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