You’ve received a phone call you hoped you never would: your child is in trouble with the law. If it’s the first time, you’re probably very concerned, and not sure what to do. The words “juvenile court” are probably one of the first things you think of.
North Carolina considers anyone who is under the age of 18 and unmarried, un-emancipated and not a member of the military to be a “juvenile.”
What Is Juvenile Court?
In North Carolina, it’s actually called “Juvenile Justice,” and refers to anyone ages 6 through 15 that “alleged to or have been found to have committed an undisciplined or criminal offense.” DPS also handles youths 16 and 17 years old who have undisciplined complaints filed against them.
The North Carolina Juvenile Justice system handles two types of offenders: delinquents and undisciplined.
A delinquent is someone who has committed a misdemeanor crime, such as traffic offenses, vandalism, and shoplifting.
An undisciplined juvenile is one who is outside of the discipline of his or her parents, guardians or custodians. These are the kids who skip school, go where they should not be (such as bars) and has run away from home for more than 24 hours.
Many of the offenses can be expunged once the court records are sealed, if the crimes aren’t serious.
One of the main differences between North Carolina Juvenile Justice and adult criminal court is the focus on rehabilitation instead of incarceration. Because the system concentrates on rehabilitating juveniles, they may be eligible to have their records expunged upon successful completion of sentencing. These are for individuals who have not committed felonies.
A judge can issue several types of alternative sentencing, including community service types of programs, victim restitution, counseling and other “non-jail” penalties.
Detention centers are locked facilities for juveniles awaiting a hearing or for juveniles ordered to confinement for an act of delinquency. Repeat offenders may be required to stay in detention until the age of 21.
A flowchart of the process is available on the North Carolina DPS website.
North Carolina Juveniles Committing Felonies
If a North Carolina juvenile commits felony offense, such as drug trafficking, alcohol or tobacco possession or use, or other serious crime, they are automatically sent directly into the adult court system if they are 16 or older if the judge finds probable cause. As of December 1, 2019, they will be automatically sent at the age of 18, and anyone younger will have a transfer hearing before being sent to adult criminal court.
Should the judge find probable cause of a Class A felony (such as first-degree murder) with a juvenile who is 13 or over, he or she is required to send the case to adult court without a transfer hearing.
Unlike Juvenile Justice, they will be tried as an adult, and if they are 15 or over, the arrest and proceedings will be public, just as if they are over 21. Unless acquitted, the juvenile’s court record will not be sealed, and everything will be made public.
Hire An Experienced Raleigh, NC Defense Attorney
If your child has been is in trouble with the law, you’ll need an experienced Raleigh, NC defense attorney who understands the state’s juvenile justice system as well as the adult court system. Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County Assistant District Attorney. He can aggressively defend your child in juvenile or adult court against any charges, major or minor. Call Mr. Brinkley today at 919-832-0307 or use our contact page to schedule your free consultation.