Legal Aid Society

Justice for New York’s Youth

The Legal Aid Society is asking lawmakers to prioritize legislation that will make New York State more just for children and young people. New York’s current policies disregard well-established research about the developmental needs and capabilities of children and youth. These bills ensure that New York State’s laws appropriately and justly protect the interests of its youngest and most vulnerable.


This legislation would ensure that all youth under 18 are provided a consultation with an attorney before they can agree to waive their right to remain silent and be subjected to custodial interrogation by law enforcement. Social scientists, child psychologists, and other professionals agree that adolescents are not able to adequately weigh the long-term impact of their decisions, especially in a custodial setting. Children are also more likely to falsely confess than adults. This bill ensures that the constitutional right to remain silent is a meaningful protection for all children, not just those privileged enough to hire private counsel.

Juvenile CARE Act

This bill would ensure all records related to juvenile arrests and family court cases are kept confidential and automatically expunged at age 21.  It would also provide for immediate expungement of records relating to cases decided in favor of the accused and expand eligibility for discretionary expungement for youth under age 21.  Finally, it would clarify how juvenile records are handled by law enforcement. Currently, juvenile arrest-related records follow youth into adulthood impeding their ability to achieve gainful employment, enlist in the military, enroll in college, obtain occupational licensing, or acquire citizenship.

The Youth Justice and Opportunities Act

This bill would expand alternatives to incarceration and record sealing for young adults. New York law must reflect the science that adolescent brain development is not complete until a youth’s mid-twenties. Young adults should be treated in a manner that recognizes their developing sense of criminal culpability and potential for rehabilitation. This bill would strengthen and expand existing protections of the youthful offender statute, allowing emerging adults, ages 19-25, to take responsibility for the commission of a crime while fostering their ability to enter the workforce, secure stable housing, and pursue education without the stigma of a criminal record, or, in many cases, the lifelong trauma of a long prison sentence.

Ensure Justice for Young New Yorkers

Tell your state legislator to pass these critical pieces of legislation.

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