The district attorneys of Orange and Ulster counties are attacking proposals in Albany to raise the age that teens can be charged with crimes as adults.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo included the change in his budget proposal. The state Legislature is supposed to act on the budget proposal by Saturday.
Cuomo’s plan is similar to bills put up in the state Assembly and Senate.
Each would raise the age of “criminal responsibility” – the age someone is charged as an adult – to 18 years old from the current 16.
The change would shift cases for 16- and 17-year-olds from town and county courts to family courts, where cases are prosecuted and tried under different parts of state law.
Cuomo’s proposal would prevent police from interviewing 16- and 17-year-olds suspected of a crime without the consent of a parent.
It would seal criminal records of a suspect and put the decision to proceed with a case in the hands of a probation officer instead of a district attorney, Ulster County District Attorney Holley Carnright said.
North Carolina is the only other state in which 16- and 17-year-olds are prosecuted as adults, and it is in the process of changing the law.
“This legislation would prevent me from doing my job to protect the public,” Carnright said during at a news conference Monday in the Ulster County Legislature Chamber.
Carnright cited the Ulster County case of Trevor Mattis.
Three months after getting out of jail on a robbery conviction, Mattis shot and killed a witness in the case of a fellow gang member.
He was convicted of murder. Two of the witnesses to that shooting were under 18.
If the new law had been in place, police would not have been able to talk to the two witnesses.
“We would not have been successful in prosecuting Mattis,” Carnright said.
Cuomo and other supporters of the change say it will keep youth offenders out of adult prison.
When those offenders go to prison, Cuomo said recently, “We know what…