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NC Needs to 'Raise the Age'

North Carolina is the only state in the nation that still prosecutes all 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the severity of the crime, in adult criminal court. When youth end up in adult court, there is limited access to rehabilitative programming, mentoring, counseling, and education.  We need to "Raise the Age."

Evidence shows that the juvenile system – with programs tailored to how children think and learn – is more effective at rehabilitating youth. Fewer then go on to commit another crime, which means lower costs to society and more children growing up to become educated, employed citizens. 

New York was the only other state to do this and they just changed their law when Governor Cuomo signed the changes into law on April 10th.  Now North Carolina is the ONLY state in the county to treat 16 and 17 year olds like adults for criminal purposes.  There is a lot of evidence that the total costs for North Carolina would be lower if we kept 16 and 17 years old in juvenile court for misdemeanor offenses.

While many states provide adult trials for younger defendants accused of heinous crimes, only North Carolina automatically treats everyone 16 or older as an adult. There were 89 inmates in the North Carolina prison system under the age of 18 as of last July; 14 were 16 years old and 75 were 17 years old.

The Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, as House Bill 380 is entitled, would try 16- and 17-year-olds as juveniles unless the charge is a serious felony. There is an option for adult trials for less serious felonies.

The bill takes two other steps to address juvenile crime. It sets up “school-justice partnerships with local law enforcement agencies, local boards of education, and local school administrative units with the goal of reducing in-school arrests, out-of-school suspensions, and expulsions” and mandates juvenile-justice training for law-enforcement officers.

The bill has good bipartisan support.  Almost everyone understands that it makes no sense to automatically put 16-year-olds into adult court. That includes law-enforcement officers and prosecutors as well as advocates outside the system.

Data shows a 7.5 percent decrease in recidivism when teens are tried in the juvenile system. Further, when youthful offenders are prosecuted in the adult system the recidivism rate is 12.6 percent higher than the overall population.

HB 380 would allow the system to treat youthful offenders as individuals. Some are accused of crimes so heinous that the decision must be made in an adult court, but most have not. They deserve the chance to put their errors behind without a criminal record that will follow them around for the rest of their lives.  There are currently laws in place to make for easier expungements for crimes committed at age 16 or 17.

Now that New York has moved forward on this issue North Carolina cannot be the only state to treat 16 and 17 year olds like adults for criminal purposes.

If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense and are 16 or 17 years old contact The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC for a free consultation.  We handle cases for 16 and 17 years olds in adult criminal court and hope that the law changes soon.  You can reach juvenile defense lawyer Wiley Nickel at 919-585-1486 for a free consultation.  We also handle juvenile cases for those charged with a crime under the age of 16.