Crimes committed by Juveniles can be prosecuted in either the Family Court (in a juvenile delinquency proceeding) or in the Criminal Court (as a juvenile or adolescent 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 fifteen) 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).
Under the Raise the Age law, all 16-year-olds and all 17-year-olds charged with felony offenses are treated as Adolescent Offenders. This means that the cases start in the Youth Part of the Supreme or County Court. Cases can be transferred to the Family Court, where the child will be prosecuted and treated as a Juvenile Delinquent. Adolescent Offenders that stay in the Youth Part are treated as adults, but at sentencing, the Judge will consider the child’s age when deciding the appropriate disposition (such as a Youthful Offender adjudication) and sentence. Adolescent Offenders have access to intervention services and programs.