The New York City Law Department's Family Court Division investigates, and prosecutes where appropriate, matters involving youth between the ages of 7 and 16 who have been arrested for juvenile delinquency and referred to the Law Department for prosecution. The Raise the Age Legislation, which went into effect on October 1, 2018 no longer treats 16 year old youth automatically as adults. Most 16 year old youth are now subject to the jurisdiction of a newly created Youth Part and the Family Court. On October 1, 2019 this law will be extended to youth 17 years of age. Youth (16 years of age and as of October 1, 2019 youth 17 years of age) arrested for misdemeanor offenses will automatically be treated as juveniles and the matters will be handled by the Family Court. Youth arrested for felony offenses may also be treated as juveniles but are subject to initial processing in the Youth Part as Adolescent Offenders. Transfer or removal to the Family Court from the Youth Part will depend on the severity of the felony charges and other factors considered by the court.
The Family Court system is meant to be rehabilitative, not punitive. The Family Court process seeks to ensure that youth who commit offenses that would be considered crimes if they were adults are held accountable for their actions and receive services that will contribute to their rehabilitation.
The Law Department handles a wide variety of cases ranging from shoplifting and graffiti to more serious offenses such as assault, robbery, sexual assault, and homicide. In 2017, approximately 4,000 youths under 16 were arrested in New York City, and more than 3,000 of these matters were referred to the Law Department for prosecution. Most of the remaining cases were addressed through the adjustment process by the New York City Department of Probation, which resolves certain cases without formal prosecution, provided that the victim consents.
The Law Department determines whether to formally file charges against a youth. Approximately 1400 juvenile delinquency cases were filed in New York City Family Court in 2017.
In fashioning an appropriate "disposition", or case outcome, for a youth who is found to have committed an offense, the Family Court judge considers the needs and best interests of the youth as well as the need for protection of the community.
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