(Rochester, N.Y.) - Tyquan Rivera was charged as an adult, but because he is 14, will be treated as a youthful offender.
The law makes a distinction for young offenders. Those under age 13 are treated in family court and their names are not made public; certain records are sealed.
Anyone under 16 can be charged as a juvenile offender, but tried in adult court. That is how prosecutors will handle the case against Tyquan Rivera, charged with shooting a police officer several days ago.
Prosecutors will call witnesses and the youth’s attorney will mount a defense.
When tried as a juvenile offender, if he is found guilty of the most serious charge of attempted murder, he would serve a minimum of one to three years and a maximum 3.5 to 10 years.
Defense Attorney Don Thompson said that means he could be up for parole in as little as one year and no more than 10 years. By contrast, if charged as an adult, he could face a maximum of 25 years.
Although Thompson is not connected with Tyquan Rivera’s case, says there is a reason for the New York State law.
"There's recognition that juveniles can commit serious acts without an appreciation for those acts and that they are more deserving of adult type punishments," Thompson said. "It recognizes that they don't have the same judgment an adult would have."
In 1993, when Eric Smith was 13-years old, he killed a 4-year-old boy. He was tried as an adult, but sentenced as a juvenile. That meant he was eligible for parole after serving just nine years.
Rivera's attorney George Conaty said he may ask for a hearing to try to kick the case back to juvenile court that would mean even lighter penalties.
"You don't have a lot to lose,” Conaty said. “What are they going to say—‘No’? Then you go ahead and be prosecuted."
Yet there are some exceptions that would erase youthful offender sentencing, including teenagers who have received juvenile delinquent status from past criminal activity, or who are charged with an armed felony.
One or both of those exceptions could apply to this case. Rivera has had contact with the juvenile justice system. Also, the case will be presented to the grand jury, which could hear evidence on new charges related to the rifle allegedly used in this shooting.
Prosecuting attorney Sandra Doorley said, "We would be happy to comment once Mr. Rivera is arraigned in court."
In 2008, lawmakers enacted "Penny’s Law" to increase sentences for youthful offenders convicted in adult court of murder.
The current law is called an indeterminate sentence which means the judge would set a range of minimum to maximum. Once the minimum is met, a parole board would determine whether to grant a release.