Is It A Crime Or A Delinquency?

If you or someone you know has a child who’s involved in wrongdoing and is going through the criminal justice system, you may not understand the different proceedings and penalties. In this article, we’ll discuss the basic difference between a crime and delinquency as it relates to underage offenders.

Two Systems

Is It A Crime Or A Delinquency?

There are two different court systems for offenders in North Carolina: juvenile court & criminal justice and the adult criminal court system.

A “juvenile” in North Carolina is defined as someone under the age of 16. Juveniles are usually sent to the juvenile justice system for misdemeanor offenses (shoplifting, vandalism, underage drinking, etc.). If a juvenile is charged with a felony, even as young as 13, they will bypass juvenile court and be tried in the adult court system.

There are two definitions of a juvenile: a “delinquent,” who has actually committed a crime, and an “undisciplined” juvenile, who is out of the control of parents or guardians, has run away from home, skips school and commits other infractions.

A delinquency is a wrongful act committed by a juvenile, whereas a “crime” is generally attributed to an adult, over the age of 16. But there are differences based on the severity of the crime committed.

The Juvenile Court

The goal of juvenile court is rehabilitation rather than incarceration. Juveniles are punished for their offenses but given the chance for a clean slate after they turn 18 through rehabilitation and alternative sentences such as probation, time in a youth development center, or prohibited from operating a motor vehicle. Many offenses can be expunged at that time and court records sealed.

Juveniles In Adult Court

Sometimes juveniles commit more serious crimes that send them into the adult system before the age of 18. Since North Carolina considers anyone over 15 to be an “adult” for these purposes, it is at that point the “delinquency” becomes a “crime,” particularly if it’s a serious one (including felonies such as murder.) “Adults” of all ages are held responsible for their actions, arrested, charged with a crime, sent to trial, and if found guilty, incarcerated.

Some of the more common crimes committed by “delinquent” juveniles include:

Crimes like these and other felonies will send a juvenile into the adult system where they will be tried as an adult, and if convicted, sent to prison. The juvenile has the right to legal counsel, but no longer has the right to privacy, and the case will be made public as if he or she were over 21.

Juvenile Criminal Defense in Raleigh

If your child is charged with a juvenile or adult offense, Dewey P. Brinkley is an experienced criminal defense attorney who can guide you and your child through the court process, defend your child against charges and work for a more reasonable sentence. Call the law offices of Dewey P. Brinkley today for a free initial consultation to discuss your child’s case at (919) 832-0307.


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