The case of defendant Franklin Reyes is typical of what can happen when a young man or woman in the transition from immature adolescence to adulthood faces a prosecution system that seeks to impose severe penalties. Every defendant in Nassau County, Suffolk County or Queens County deserves to be represented by an experienced criminal defense attorney when the prospect of being locked up in jail for 15 years and a young life blighted is a distinct possibility.
Franklin Reyes has been charged with manslaughter after knocking down and killing a young girl when speeding in his parents’ SUV on the Upper West Side over a year ago without a license and without his parents’ consent. The issue in this case is not whether the 18 year old young man was responsible for Ariel Russo’s death, but whether his age at the time – he was 17 when the incident took place – is a factor to be taken into consideration when deciding how he should be punished.
On one side, the prosecution has declared that Reyes should receive the maximum sentence – 15 years for the manslaughter charge and he would also have the felony charge on his record. Reyes’s defense lawyer has applied for Reyes to be given youthful offender status, which is available if the defendant is younger than 18 at the time of a crime.
Prosecutors claim that Reyes was known for boasting about his disregard for traffic rules and speeding limits. They say they have evidence of his arrogant attitude in comments he made on his Facebook page and conversation and texts with his friends. All of this, they say, means that he knowingly went out of his way to break the law and drive in a reckless manner that day when he struck the little girl, intentional behavior which could potentially have led to just such an accident taking place.
The defense argues that comments like this are what might be expected of an immature young man. “It’s just childish gossip” said Reyes’ defense lawyer, commenting on the Facebook page. He went on to wonder why this would have anything to do with a criminal conviction.
An offer in the case is expected to be delivered by Supreme Court Justice Gregory Carro next month. So far, it seems that the judge has been leaning towards leniency for Reyes based on his age, but he has said that the information about the bragging and alleged earlier speeding incidents needs to be considered before he delivers his opinion.If Reyes does not accept the judge’s offer, then the case will have to go to trial.
The question remains “when is a youth still a youth?” when it comes to a criminal offense. Young people tend to make rash decisions and act in an immature way more than older people; that tendency is the basis of the youthful offender status. There is no mandatory requirement for the law to treat every defendant under 18 as a youthful offender. Every case is considered on its own merit.