Albany- Defense attorney Pete Donaldson says he has a problem with mandatory sentencing. "I think the punishment should fit the criminal as well as fitting the crime," says Donaldson.
If that criminal is a juvenile and they commit certain violent crimes, under Senate Bill 440, they will be prosecuted as an adult in superior court. If convicted, they'll be required to serve a mandatory ten-year sentence. "There are certain offenses that are more likely or will end up having a juvenile tried as an adult, a murder case for example," says Donaldson.
Murder is just one of the Seven Deadly Sins listed under Senate Bill 440 along with rape, aggravated child molestation, aggravated sodomy, aggravated sexual battery, aggravated assault, voluntary manslaughter and armed robbery with a firearm. An offense that three Albany teens are charged with. Police say they used a gun to rob a Domino's Pizza Delivery driver. For a few slices of pizza, they could serve several years in jail under strict laws.
"This is a heavily debated issue, not only in this state but every state in the union," says Judge Herbie Solomon. He handles juvenile cases on a daily basis in the juvenile court setting but when children commit certain types of crimes, he says they are rightfully tried as adults.
"I do think that it's important for the community to know that some types of crimes that children are committing are very heinous offenses and probably ought to be tried in the superior courts," says Solomon.
And because of tighter laws, juvenile delinquency has leveled off in Albany but is it because of a fair system?
"I think overall we have a pretty good system. Are there changes that could be made? Sure. I think we could probably go back in and find some things," says Donaldson.
Senate Bill 440 was part of a series of bills called the School Safety and Juvenile Justice Reform Act.