Crimes committed by infants can be prosecuted in either the Family Court (in a juvenile delinquency proceeding) or in the Criminal Court (as a juvenile offender) depending upon the nature and severity of the charges and the age of the person charged .
Generally, any youth between the ages of seven and fifteen who is charged with an act that would constitute a crime if committed by an adult (one over the age of sixteen) can be prosecuted in the Family Court as a juvenile delinquent . Such person possesses most of the same statutory and constitutional protections (due process rights) that an adult prosecuted in the Criminal Court has. One exception is that in the Family Court, guilt or non-guilt is decided by a Family Court judge (as opposed to a jury) after a fact-finding hearing (as opposed to a trial) .
Charges for Juveniles and Sentencing Guidelines in New York
In Family Court, there are a variety of available dispositions ranging from dismissal of the charges to placement of the offender in a secure facility run by the Division for Youth .
A child (thirteen years of age) who is charged with Murder in the Second Degree or a sexually motivated felony can be charged in the Criminal Court as a juvenile offender . Similarly, a child who is fourteen and fifteen years old, who is charged with any crime from a certain list of violent felony offenses can also be charged in the Criminal Court as a juvenile offender.
Generally, children charged as Juvenile Offenders face mandatory upstate (more than one year) jail time if they are convicted of the crime charged unless they qualify for Youthful Offender treatment or unless their prosecution can be diverted or removed to Family Court.
Children, aged sixteen to eighteen, charged with any type of criminal activity (even misdemeanors) are prosecuted in the Criminal Court. If a dismissal, diversionary program or reduction of charges to a non-criminal level cannot be achieved, experienced defense counsel will focus efforts on obtaining what is known as a Youthful Offender adjudication. This replaces a criminal conviction so as to prevent the client from having any criminal record and also reduce the child’s exposure to having to serve time in jail.
Choose a Juvenile Defense Lawyer with a Proven Track Record
Victor Knapp, Esq. has over 32 years of experience in representing children charged with various offenses in both the Criminal Courts and Family Courts of New York as well as in Federal Court. Realizing the sensitivity, dynamics and importance of early intervention in representing children, Victor Knapp has been very successful in obtaining favorable dispositions for his clients.
 Other potential dispositions include an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD), conditional discharge, probation, placement at home or with a suitable relative or private person, placement with the Commissioner of Social Services (foster home or another authorized agency), and non-secure or limited secure placement.