Raise the Age Law Changes How Juveniles Are Charged as Adults

Laws passed in the last five years have altered how North Carolina’s justice system views crimes committed by juveniles. The changes mean that fewer youths will be moved through the adult system, but kids can still be charged as adults for some crimes.

If your child is arrested for a crime, don’t underestimate the seriousness of the matter. Contact the experienced attorneys at Jetton & Meredith, PLLC in Charlotte.

Juvenile vs. Adult Crimes

In a broad context, children between the ages of 6 and 17 are considered juveniles. Crimes they commit are generally adjudicated by North Carolina’s juvenile justice system. Any crime committed by someone 18 years or older is adjudicated in the adult justice system.

The juvenile justice system imposes consequences in an effort to rehabilitate children. Consequences handed down in a juvenile disposition hearing can include the following:

  • Probation Supervision
  • Community Service
  • Restitution
  • Evaluation and Treatment
  • Confinement in a Detention Center/Youth Development Center

Juvenile court records are sealed.

While the juvenile system looks to rehabilitate, the adult system is more focused on punishment. Extensive prison sentences (including life) and fines are possible. North Carolina is one of 24 states that still have the death penalty.

Understanding the gravity of the consequences underscores the importance of retaining an attorney who is highly skilled in criminal defense.

Juvenile Crimes Can Still Be Tried as an Adult

Prior to December 2019, children as young as 16 were automatically charged as adults – even for nonviolent crimes. The Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (“Raise the Age”) expanded juvenile court jurisdiction. Now, all juvenile matters begin in juvenile court. Depending on the crime, a child can be transferred to adult criminal justice.

The following circumstances can result in a child being tried in superior court as an adult:

  • A juvenile was 16 years old or older when they allegedly committed a class A, B1, B2 C, D, E, F, or G felony
  • A juvenile was 16 years or older when they allegedly committed a class H or I felony if the court finds probable cause to do so in a transfer hearing
  • Juveniles aged 16 or 17 will continue to be tried in adult court for traffic offenses.
  • Juveniles ages 13-15 are subject to mandatory transfer to superior court if they commit a class A felony (first-degree murder). For lesser felonies in this age group, a transfer hearing is held to determine if they should be transferred to the adult judicial system.

Once a juvenile has been transferred to the adult court, all future offenses are also tried there.

On the other end of the spectrum, children as young as 6 had been under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. With Senate Bill 207 now in effect since Dec. 1, 2021, that age is now raised to 10 years old with two exceptions. Children ages 8 to 9 who had a prior court judgment or who commit a felony (class A through G) will remain under juvenile jurisdiction. Before the passing of this legislation, North Carolina was the only state in the country to have children as young as 6 be a defendant in the juvenile justice system.

Your Child’s Right to Criminal Defense

If your child is potentially facing charges for criminal wrongdoing, get in touch with one of our attorneys right away. Our attorneys understand the confusion and fear that you and your child might feel. We’re here to provide the support and legal know-how you need. Our goal is always to work to the best possible outcome, including getting charges dropped altogether.

Learn more in a free initial consultation. Schedule by calling (704) 931-5535 or submitting our online form.