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Designated Felony Act

Designated Felony Act
E PETITION

If a juvenile between the ages of 13 and 15 has allegedly committed a felony such as murder, manslaughter, assault, sexual assault, attempted murder, or burglary, the juvenile may be treated as an adult in Criminal Court. However, these cases may be transferred by the Criminal Court to Family Court where they are known as designated felony act petitions.

Arrest and Custody: The police may arrest juveniles alleged to have committed a felony act and may fingerprint them while in custody. Following the arrest and related procedures, the juvenile may be:

  • Taken to Family Court provided it is in session
  • Given an "appearance ticket" directing the juvenile to appear at Probation on a certain date
  • Taken to a detention facility (In this case, the juvenile must be brought before a judge within 72 hours or on the next day court is in session when detained.)

As in cases of juvenile delinquency, a reasonable effort must be made to contact the juvenile's parent or guardian if such action is taken.

Initial Court Appearance: Adjustment is not an option for designated felony acts. In the Family Court, an initial court appearance takes place where the juvenile or respondent, is informed of the allegations in the petition and advised of his or her rights. As in juvenile delinquency cases, the respondent is also appointed an Attorney for the Child(law guardian) and given a copy of the petition.

If the respondent admits the allegations are true, the judge must ensure that the respondent is aware of his or her rights and the consequences of such an admission.

If the respondent denies the allegations, a fact-finding hearing is scheduled. For cases involving designated felony acts, the fact-finding hearing must begin within 14 days of the initial appearance.

The judge also must decide whether to release or "parole" the respondent to a parent or guardian, or remand the respondent to a detention facility pending the dispositional hearing.

At the fact-finding hearing, the judge must determine if the evidence presented is sufficient to prove the allegations are true.

Following a determination that the respondent has committed a designated felony act, the judge will order a probation investigation and a diagnostic assessment.

The judge must also decide whether to remand or parole the respondent pending the dispositional hearing. If the respondent is remanded for a designated felony act, the dispositional hearing must be held within 50 days.

If the judge determines that the allegations have not been proven, the case is dismissed, and the respondent, if held in detention, must be immediately released.

At the dispositional hearing, the judge may order restrictive placement, or placement in a secure facility for a specified length of time. In determining whether to order restrictive placement, the judge must consider:

  • The needs, interests, record and background of the respondent
  • The nature of the offense
  • The age and physical condition of the victim
  • The need to protect the community

An order of restrictive placement for a Class A felony act, including murder in the first and second degree, arson, and kidnaping requires that the respondent be placed for an initial period of 5 years, which may be extended for 1 year periods up to the age of 21. For the first 12 to 18 months, the respondent must be placed in a secure facility. Thereafter, the respondent may be placed in a residential facility, secure or otherwise, for up to 12 months. The Office of Children and Family Services must report to the court in writing on the respondent's progress at least once every 6 months.

When restrictive placement for designated felony acts other than a Class A felony is ordered, the respondent is placed for an initial period of 3 years. For 6 to 12 months, the respondent must be placed in a secure facility and may afterwards be moved to a residential facility. The Office of Children and Family Services must report to the court in writing on the respondent's progress at least once every 6 months.

There is no option for an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) in cases involving designated felony acts.

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