Stop Criminally Trying Minors as Adults


Target:  New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver

Goal:  Raise the age at which individuals can be tried as an adult to 18

New York is one of two states in the entire country that defines an adult as sixteen or older.  As a result, nearly 50,000 sixteen and seventeen-year-olds get prosecuted in adult criminal courts each year, mostly for non-violent crimes such as shoplifting and possession of marijuana.  Recent neuroscience research has found that teenagers have not yet formed the part of the brain that comprehends consequence of action to its fullest extent, accounting for their notoriously rash judgment and questionable decision-making skills.  Furthermore, teenagers who are prosecuted as adults or serve time in adult prisons end up committing more violent crimes in their future than those who are prosecuted as a minor or spend time in juvenile detention.  These teenagers are not yet fully aware what they are doing, and should not be tried as if they are.

Teenagers younger than 18 need to be handled by the juvenile justice system.  Unlike the adult criminal judicial system, youth-oriented courts offer rehabilitative services and judges who understand adolescent development.  Most importantly, an individual tried as a minor will not end up being marginalized by society before his or her life truly begins.  Records are sealed, fingerprints are destroyed, and charges are dropped, as long as the case gets resolved in the youth division.  This allows youths to move on with their lives without the tough challenges faced by adult convicts.

Although New York’s decision to define juveniles as individuals under 16 was initially supposed to be temporary, it has stood for over fifty years now.  Teenagers need to be protected by the state, as they are still developing their minds.  Pushing adult consequences on a teenager is unjust.  Sign the petition below and help raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18.


Dear Assembly Speaker Silver,

New York is behind the rest of the country when it comes to the age of criminal responsibility.  Trying teenagers of 16 and 17 is unjust, especially when they receive adult-scale consequences to a non-violent crime.  Teenagers are not yet adults who fully comprehend the consequences of their actions.

Research has shown that teenagers are still developing parts of their brains, including those that control insight and long-term perspective.  This explains the rash decisions teens sometimes make.  They are not delinquents with no moral compass, but a group of confused individuals who do not always think through their actions.

Those who are tried as adults at an early age are particularly vulnerable to the values surrounding criminal justice system, which marginalizes and criminalizes defendants, casting them as bad people.  This can affect youths psychologically.  Furthermore, minors who are tried as adults and serve time in adult prisons end up committing more violent acts in their futures than if they had been tried within the juvenile justice system.  These teenagers need your protection.

Nearly 50,000 youths get sent to adult criminal courts each year in New York.  Do not impose adult consequences on them for actions they do not yet fully recognize as adversely affecting their futures.  Raise the age of criminal responsibility to 18.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: DR04 via Wikimedia

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52 Signatures

  • Alice Rim
  • sheila childs
  • James Thrailkill
  • Hermann Kastner
  • Terrie Phenicie
  • Mal Gaff
  • Holly Hall
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  • Melanie waleski
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