If you are under 16 years of age, different rules apply when dealing with the criminal justice system. Learn more about the important distinctions.
A juvenile offender, or a “j.o.” for short, is a youth between the ages of 13 and 15 who has been charged with a serious violent felony, and as a result, is prosecuted in the adult court system. People charged in the adult system are called defendants.
If you are 13 years old, you can be tried for murder in the second degree. However, if you are 14 or 15 years old, you can be tried for any of the following:
Once arrested, a youth is brought to a courtroom, where he or she will meet with a court-appointed attorney if he or she cannot afford to hire a private attorney. The youth will see a judge who will make a determination to release the youth, set bail or remand the youth to detention. The case is then adjourned to another part to find out if there has been grand jury action.
A grand jury is a group of 16-23 people who listen to evidence presented by the prosecutor. The youth and his/her lawyer are not in the room during this presentation. However, a defendant has a right to testify in the grand jury. A grand jury indicts a case when it finds reasonable cause to believe that the youth charged committed the offense. Once indicted, a case is transferred to Supreme Court. If the grand jury does not indict the case after hearing the evidence, the case is dismissed. However, if the grand jury finds that the youth committed an offense that is not serious enough for Supreme Court, but can be prosecuted in Family Court, the case will be sent to Family Court.
Once indicted, a youth appears in the youth part of the Supreme Court to be arraigned on the indictment. The clerk of the court reads the charges on which the youth was indicted and the youth enters a plea of not guilty. The Supreme Court judge can re-evaluate a youth’s bail status at this stage of the proceeding. Reports by the Probation Department and the mental health clinic may be ordered.
If a youth wishes to contest the charges against him/her, he or she has the right to have a jury trial. This decision should be carefully discussed with one’s lawyer.
A youth can enter a plea of guilty to a charge in the indictment. This decision should also be seriously considered. The possible sentence will be discussed in court among the youth’s lawyer, the prosecutor and the judge.
Sometimes the judge will allow a youth to earn a non-jail sentence by successfully completing a community based after school or residential program.
The judge can find a youth to be a youthful offender. This means that the case is sealed and the youth will not have a criminal conviction on his or her record.
There are three juvenile detention centers in New York City:
The information in this document has been prepared by The Legal Aid Society for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. You should not act upon any information without retaining professional legal counsel.
Last Updated: 10 August 2022
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