Minors who get into trouble for misdemeanors and “petty” crimes are usually dealt with through the juvenile justice system. This separate system is designed to offer rehabilitation and other services to those 16 and under who have broken the law. North Carolina considers anyone between the ages of 6 and 17 to be a “juvenile.”
Rather than incarceration, the juvenile justice system focuses on the child and the family, and includes education, community programs, and treatment. A stint in a juvenile detention facility may also be included. Juvenile records are usually sealed, meaning that the minor has a “fresh start” as an adult.
We previously discussed how juvenile crimes are treated differently in North Carolina. The adult court system focuses on punishment rather than rehabilitation, and has tougher punitive consequences such as fines and prison time. Even a conviction in adult court without jail time will mean a criminal record with long-term repercussions.
Currently, 16- and 17-year olds are automatically tried in adult court for even minor offenses, while younger individuals stay in the juvenile court system.
When A Minor Child Commits Adult Crimes
Juveniles of nearly any age can be charged as an adult if they have committed more serious crimes. Frequently, the judge is allowed to use his or her discretion in allowing a juvenile to be tried as an adult. A minor can be charged as an adult if:
- The crime is more serious, requiring the child to be tried as an adult
- The juvenile has been in trouble before and was previously tried as an adult (this is the “once an adult, always adult” mandate)
- He or she understood the serious nature of the criminal act and the repercussions
- The juvenile has a history of similar criminal acts
Charging and trying a minor child as an adult occurs for crimes such as murder, sexual assault, drug crimes and crimes involving a weapon.
Raising The Age
Until next month, juveniles over 16 charged are still automatically charged as adults. North Carolina is the last state in the US to “raise the age” for those in juvenile court from 16 to 18.
Effective December 1, 2019, anyone under the age of 18 facing a misdemeanor charge, or the state’s two lowest-level nonviolent felonies (break-ins and larceny) will be tried in Juvenile Court rather than as an adult.
This gives the 16- and 17-year olds the opportunity to access services available under the juvenile justice system. They have the choice and the chance to turn their lives around and avoid an adult criminal record before 18. Research shows that individuals who go through the juvenile justice system are less likely to commit crimes as an adult, which also lowers the adult crime rate.
Juveniles who are under 18 and are charged and arrested on more serious felonies will still be sent to Juvenile Court first. However, district attorneys will then have the option to move the cases to adult court either through a judge or a grand jury indictment. Those who were arrested and charged before the law takes effect will still be tried as adults under the previous system.
Raleigh’s Juvenile Court Attorney, Dewey P. Brinkley
If your child has been charged with a crime, your first goal should be to keep the case in juvenile court. You should also find a juvenile court attorney who can investigate the case and determine your chances at trial.
Dewey P. Brinkley is a former Wake County Assistant District Attorney. He can aggressively defend your child in juvenile or adult court against any criminal charges, major or minor. He will work to ensure a fair trial and that your child’s rights are protected. Call today at 919-832-0307 or use our contact page to schedule your free consultation.