skip navigation


liibulletin-ny

CRIMINAL PROCEDURE - JUVENILE DELINQUENCY - ORIGINAL JURISDICTION

The Family Court may only have jurisdiction over violent juvenile offenses in those instances where the criminal court, "in the interest of justice," deems it necessary to remove the case to Family Court.

[SUMMARY] | [ISSUE & DISPOSITION] | [AUTHORITIES CITED] | [COMMENTARY]

SUMMARY

Respondent was arrested and charged with delinquency in Family Court for his alleged participation in an attack on three individuals. Among the delinquency charges were various counts of assault, including two counts of assault in the first degree. Respondent moved to dismiss the two counts of assault in the first degree on the grounds that they were beyond the scope of Family Court's jurisdiction. Family Court denied his motion to dismiss. Respondent confessed to activities meriting charges of assault in the second degree. Respondent was sentenced as a juvenile delinquent to a limited security facility for a term of no more than a year and a half.

Respondent appealed to the Appellate Division, citing Family Court Act § 301 contending that Family Court did not retain exclusive original jurisdiction over offenses committed by juveniles deemed criminally responsible for their actions. The Appellate Division sustained Respondent's appeal.

The presentment agency appealed to the Court of Appeals, which affirmed the decision of the Appellate Division.

ISSUE & DISPOSITION

Issue(s)

Whether Family Court retains concurrent original jurisdiction with criminal courts over acts for which a juvenile can be held criminally responsible under N.Y. Penal § 10.00(18) and N.Y. Crim. Proc § 1.20(42).

Disposition

No. The state legislature, in passing the Family Court Act §301, gave exclusive original jurisdiction to criminal courts for violent felonies committed by juveniles over the age of 13. The criminal courts, however, have discretion to transfer a case to family court.

AUTHORITIES CITED

Cases Cited by the Court

  • In the Matter of Daniel Vega v. Howard E. Bell, 47 N.Y.2d 543 (N.Y. 1979).

Other Sources Cited by the Court

COMMENTARY

State of the Law Before Raymond G.

Before 1978, Family Court had exclusive original jurisdiction over matters of juvenile delinquency. See Family Ct Act § 302.1(1); see also N.Y. Const. art VI, § 13(b). However, in an effort to reduce violent criminal conduct by youths, the New York State Legislature in 1978 created a new class of juvenile offenders accused of committing certain violent acts. In making this distinction, the Legislature divested the Family Court of its original jurisdiction over these "juvenile offenders" and conferred jurisdiction to the adult criminal justice system. See Family Ct Act § 301.2(1). In addition, the Legislature amended N.Y. Penal § 30.00 to expressly exclude the availability of the infancy defense to juvenile offenders. Deprivation of this defense subjected juvenile offenders to criminal liability for their actions.

Effect of Raymond G. on Current Law

In Raymond G., the Court of Appeals addressed the substantive effect that several 1978 legislative amendments have had on Family Court jurisdiction over juveniles facing indictment for certain serious, violent crimes. The Court determined that Family Court does not possess jurisdiction over any offense for which a juvenile could be subject to criminal prosecution, unless the criminal court possessing original jurisdiction has ordered the matter removed to Family Court. See N.Y. Crim. Proc. article 725; see also N.Y. Crim. Proc. § 180.75(4).

In 1978, the Legislature divested Family Court of original jurisdiction over a certain number of serious, violent offenses by 1) creating a new class of "juvenile offenders" in criminal court (N.Y. Penal § 10.00(18); N.Y. Crim. Proc. § 1.20(42); and 2) narrowing the definition of "juvenile delinquent," essentially, to exclude those who would fall under the category of "juvenile offender." Family Ct Act § 301.2(1). The Court, here, resolved an issue of statutory interpretation arising as a result of some overlap between the offenses ascribed to "juvenile offenders" and those listed as "designated felony acts" under the Family Court Act. Compare N.Y. Penal § 10.00(18) with Family Ct Act § 301.2(8) (amended 1976).

Rejecting the presentment agency's argument that Family Court retains concurrent original jurisdiction over the offenses listed as designated felony acts that also give rise to juvenile offender status (e.g., in this case, first-degree assault), the Court reasoned that, in leaving intact the provisions for disposition of designated felony acts, the Legislature intended that Criminal Court transferees be subject to these provisions upon the removal of their case to Family Court. The overlap, therefore, does not affect jurisdictional matters. Indeed, the Court delineated the limitations made by the 1978 amendments -- they divested Family Court of jurisdiction when a juvenile is criminally responsible as an adult.

Unanswered Questions

Although the Court allows for transfer of a case to Family Court "in the interest of justice," the Court declined to set forth any guidelines, limitations, or criteria that would allow such a transfer. Also, it is unclear whether the criminal court would have been successful if it had attempted transfer of this case to Family Court.

Survey of the Law in Other Jurisdictions

The state of New York has chosen to follow what is called a "legislative offense" exclusion in delineating certain offenses committed by juveniles over which the criminal court will have original jurisdiction as opposed to juvenile or family court. The criminal court can then choose, at its discretion, to transfer the case to juvenile court. Other states' practices fall into this same category or go one of two other possible routes: the judicial waiver or the prosecutorial waiver. State ex rel. A.L., 638 A.2d 814, 817-18 (N.J. Super. 1994).

In State v. Wilson, 409 A.2d 226 (Me.1979), the Maine Supreme Judicial Court ruled that the states are free to exclude or include offenses from the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. Similarly, in State v. Angel C., 715 A.2d 652 (Conn. 1998), the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that a statute that vests jurisdiction in criminal court with a subsequent transfer to juvenile court is constitutionally valid. Vermont also follows this practice. State v. Buelow, 587 A.2d 948 (Vt. 1990) ruled that the court may transfer the proceeding to juvenile court at its discretion. All of these states therefore follow an offense exclusion approach that has been upheld by their courts.

The second possible route is the judicial waiver. In this system the juvenile court has original jurisdiction but may waive it so that the defendants are then tried in criminal court. This must be done following a hearing as laid out in Kent v. United States, 383 US 541 (1966), or else it will violate the defendant's constitutional rights. This system is used in Montana. See State v. Butler, 977 P.2d 1000 (Mont. 1999) (ruling that there must be a hearing prior to filing an information with the district court, id. at 1007). Similarly, Oklahoma uses the judicial waiver. In Sherfield v. State, 511 P.2d 598 (Okl. Cr. 1973), the Court of Criminal Appeals in Oklahoma ruled that this is properly used as long there was a valid hearing with confrontational opportunity (id. at 600).

The third route is the prosecutorial waiver, where the prosecution can decide to try the case in either a juvenile or a criminal court. Georgia's Supreme Court found this practice valid in Bishop v. State, 462 S.E.2d 716 (Ga. 1995), allowing the district attorney to decide whether to bring the case in criminal court.

Prepared by:

  • Nancy Bruington '01
  • Bernadette Crespo '01
  • Angela D'Amato '00
  • Jennifer Foss '01
  • David Koeppel '01
  • Doug Rawald '01