This is a case involving the People of the State of New York versus the defendant Michael D. The case is being heard in the Criminal Term of the Supreme Court of the State of New York located in Queens County.
The defendant, Michael D. has moved for this court to set aside his sentencing based on the fact that his sentencing was in violation of his rights under the equal protection clause and the due process clause of the Constitution of the United States of America and is therefore not valid.
The defendant pled guilty to second degree robbery. He was sentenced on the 29th of March, 1979 for a term of one to three years of imprisonment. This is the minimum sentencing allowed under the law.
At the time that he committed the crime the defendant was only 15 years of age. For this reason he was subject to the juvenile offender provisions that took effect on the first of September, 1978.
Court Discussion and Decision
The juvenile offender laws were put in place as there was an increasing concern from the public about how juveniles were being handled in the Criminal Justice System. The offender provisions provided by Article 720 of the Criminal Procedure Law state that the term youth refers to someone that is between the ages of 16 and 19 at the time a crime is committed. Every youth is eligible to these terms and conditions unless the conviction of the offender is a class A-1 or class A-11 felony charge. There are other provisions for the juvenile laws in place as well.
From these provisions it is seen that the legislature has created an anomaly by compelling courts to impose more severe penalties to those that are under the age of 15. This is the distinction in the law that is being attacked by the defendant.
In this particular case, if the defendant was given youthful offender status he would have the eligibility for probation as opposed to the current punishment of incarceration. The court must scrutinize the juvenile laws that are available in this case in order to determine whether or not the defendant’s rights as a juvenile are being violated.
The court has looked at the background of the defendant and found that he comes from an emotionally volatile family background. This is the first arrest of the defendant and he was not acting alone, but with another individual who was armed at the time the incident occurred. The court feels that the defendant was subject to intense peer pressure at the time of the incident.
There is no reason for the defendant to not be treated as a juvenile in this particular case. The juvenile laws in question are relatively new and it is the hope of the court that they become more clear overtime.
In this particular case the court finds in favor of the defendant and grants the motion for vacating the sentence. The defendant is considered a youthful offender as he did not act alone and was not the real culprit in this particular crime. The defendant is resentenced to a term of probation that will not exceed five years.
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