Senator Velmanette Montgomery Introduces “Raise The Age” Legislation (S4157)

(Albany, NY) Senator Montgomery joined her colleagues in the Senate Democratic Conference to call on the Senate Majority Coalition to take real action to Raise the Age of criminal responsibility for non-violent, youthful offenders. 

Senator Montgomery’s bill is the most comprehensive legislation available to help reform the criminal justice system and start protecting 16 and 17-year old nonviolent offenders immediately. New York State is one of only two states that still prosecutes children who are 16 and 17-years olds as adults. 

I have been proud to sponsor Raise the Age legislation since 2012 and I am glad this issue is finally getting the attention it deserves.

This year I am once again sponsoring S.4157 which is the same version as Assembly bill A.4876 sponsored by Assembly member Joseph Lentol, which passed the Assembly. 

This Raise the Age legislation is the third major initiative which is part of an ongoing movement by the legislature to reform the juvenile justice system.

The legislation I have introduced (S.4157) includes the best principles of reform for our youth. In addition to the Senate Democratic Conference, it has the support of the Speaker, his Assembly Majority as well as the Black, Puerto Rican, Hispanic & Asian Legislative Caucus. I would say we have a 2 and half way agreement.  

Senator Montgomery's Raise the Age bill (S4157) would:

  • Move adolescent cases out of Criminal Court into the Family Court. The reality is that Family Courts have more resources to better help adolescents and give the family more support. Youth that go through the adult criminal justice system are 34% more likely to be re-arrested than youth that go through the juvenile justice system. The move to Family Court would reduce recidivism and lower the cost to the state.
  • When we Raise the Age children will no longer be forced to sit in a local jail (Rikers Island) or locked away in a state prison with adults. 

While the Governor has offered an alternative version, there are some significant differences between the two bills:

o S4157 would Raise the Age for non-violent youth offenders to 18-years old on January 1, 2018; while the Governor’s proposal would stagger the raise to 17-years old on January 1, 2018 and then 18-years old on January 1, 2020 (This time difference would have an enormous impact on the approximately 28,000 children who are charged as adults annually; 70% of these children are charged with misdemeanors).

o S4157 also makes provisions for youth with mental disabilities and who are unable to stand trial, but the Governor’s plan does not address this issue.

o When it comes to sealing records to help youthful offenders move past their indiscretions after they serve their sentence, the Governor’s plan would require a 10-year wait to seal records, S4157 has a 1-year wait for misdemeanors and a 3-year wait for felonies.

o The governor’s bill also has a higher number of offenses that youth can still be charged with as an adult.

o Senator Montgomery's bill requires all vehicle and traffic violations be handled in Family Court, the Governor’s bill still has traffic and vehicle violations assigned to Criminal Court; and still has charges for simple drug possession, also assigned to Criminal Court. As we move toward decriminalization of marijuana, Raise the Age legislation must reflect this.

• These distinctions between the two bills are meaningful, and that is why Senator Montgomery urges the Senate Majority Coalition to follow the Assembly’s lead and bring my legislation to the floor for a vote.