North Carolina is the last state to raise the age for juveniles charged with certain crimes to be treated as adults. Prior to December 1, 2019, 16 and 17 year olds were lumped together with adults in our District and Superior courts. Court and juvenile professionals recognize that children’s brains are still developing at the ages of 16 and 17 and young people should be treated as juveniles in our juvenile court system for most misdemeanors and non-violent felonies. Every other state had raised the age, leaving North Carolina as the last state to implement this change. Session Law 2019-186 now allows kids to keep clean records and avoid the negative consequences that a conviction in adult court can have on a young person’s education, employment, and permanent public record.
Certain crimes are excluded from this change in law. Young people who commit violent felonies will still be charged as adults. Traffic offenses will also remain in adult court. However, most other misdemeanors and non-violent felonies will now be allowed to be handled in juvenile court. The minor’s name and information will remain confidential in the juvenile court system and they will receive a variety of counseling, rehabilitation and guidance from professionals to allow the young person to learn from the mistake without having lifelong consequences.
This is a welcomed change in the law by most district attorneys, judges, and juvenile professionals. While there was some initial concern and push back by some law enforcement groups out of concern for public safety and county officials out of concern about getting stuck with the tab for implementing the legislation, a broad coalition of support developed over time to support this change in the law. It has been an effort by advocates for many years with bills introduced in the North Carolina General Assembly in 2017 and discussions about proposed changes even much earlier, but now those efforts have paid off as the law goes into full effect on December 1, 2019.
Undoubtedly, it will take some time for the court system to adjust. District attorneys believe that this change will double the current case load in juvenile court and will most certainly strain a system that did not receive any additional money to implement this change in law. One would hope that the North Carolina General Assembly will monitor the upcoming needs of the juvenile court system and fund accordingly as the juvenile system absorbs the additional caseload.
With this change in law, children in North Carolina will be on level footing with kids from other states who did not have to be processed in adult court like our kids. At the end of the day, we want our kids to learn from their youthful mistakes and to get the guidance they need to become
responsible young adults. At the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor, we support any endeavor that helps our kids and our communities. We share this information with you to keep you informed of changes in the law that can affect you and your family. As always, if you ever need a lawyer, please call us at (800) 351-3008 to reach any of our lawyers or wonderful staff at the Law Offices of Jason E. Taylor.