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What a difference two years can make in North Carolina

Being a teenager typically means making mistakes. Teens are testing boundaries and figuring themselves out. Between the ages of 16 and 18 are a very impressionable time in a person's life and likely a time when he or she makes a mistake or two. Sadly, many young people who may have committed student criminal charges are being charged as an adult. Should these mistakes define the rest of a person's life?

One North Carolina legislator says that they should not. In fact, she has reintroduced a bill that would increase the age defining an adult offender from 16 years old to 18 years old. Ever since the year 1919, North Carolina has been particularly strict with dealing with juveniles. It is argued that North Carolina is tougher on these offenders than any other state.

Many young kids who are 16 and 17 years old are a long way from adulthood. The fact is that the state charges this age group as an adult for any crime, including misdemeanors. This means that a young person faces lifelong consequences, which may not always be appropriate.

However, by incrementally increasing the age of a juvenile offender, opponents to the bill say that already-strained resources in the juvenile system will be overwhelmed. If the law is changed, there would be 20,000 additional teenagers moved out of the adult court system. Is this really a good reason to keep the laws the same, though?

Whatever is decided, it is important to examine the long-term effects of treating teenagers like adults. No matter how old a person is, he or she deserves to be treated fairly in the eyes of the law. Extreme punishments for minor violations committed at a young age may be excessive. It could also negatively affect an impressionable youth for the rest of his or her life. A teenager may want to consult a legal professional in order to try and minimize or challenge penalties and charges.

Sources: UPI.com, "North Carolina may raise offender age," Feb. 20, 2012

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