January 27, 2022—New York City Mayor Eric Adams this week released a “Blueprint to End Gun Violence,” which includes several potentially effective policy proposals for curbing gun violence in New York City. However, also included in the plan is a highly problematic and unconstitutional proposal to amend the 2017 legislation known as “Raise the Age”:
“If a 16 or 17 year old is arrested on a gun charge, law enforcement should ask the individual where they got the gun. If the individual refuses to disclose that information, prosecutors should have the ability to charge the individual in Criminal Court, rather than Family Court.” (pg. 11)
New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) urges the Adams Administration to revoke its support for this proposal to circumvent New York’s Raise the Age law. The proposed amendment to the 2017 legislation is not only a dangerous step backwards that threatens to derail the lives of young people already at risk, it is blatantly unconstitutional: it is a flagrant violation of the Fifth Amendment and a worrying signal about the Adams administration’s commitment to upholding New Yorkers’ fundamental rights.
The amendment would allow prosecutors to threaten adult criminal prosecution—as opposed to a juvenile proceeding—against everyone accused of a gun-related crime in the 16- to 17-year-old range unless they waive their absolute right to remain silent. If the Blueprint’s proposed amendment were to pass, the change would serve as a state-sanctioned abrogation of the federal and state constitutional protections against self-incrimination for juveniles and subject them to retaliatory prosecution for failing to waive those rights. Any strategy to address gun violence must respect New Yorkers’ constitutional rights and this astonishingly shortsighted proposal fails to do so.
About New Yorkers United for Justice
New Yorkers United for Justice (NYUJ) is a statewide coalition of local and national nonprofit organizations committed to supporting a movement that will bring much-needed criminal legal reform to New York State and ensure that policies promote safety and fairness. NYUJ aims for legislative urgency to fix a broken criminal legal system that punishes the poor and communities of color, tears families apart, and makes New Yorkers less safe. NYUJ believes that a system that ensures equal access to justice for anyone accused in New York State–regardless of age, race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, disability, veteran status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, national origin, or religion–must be the standard.