North Carolina has finally ended the practice of prosecuting many 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. The new “Raise the Age” law took effect on December 1.
For years, North Carolina remained the only state in the U.S. where minors 16 years or older automatically faced criminal charges as adults not children. Advocate groups and other concerned parties have lobbied the government for decades to raise the age of people who are tried in adult courts.
The new state law does not mean that all children will never face adult criminal charges. It does mean that many children will not automatically get tried as adults. Juvenile criminal cases involving more serious crimes may still end up in the adult court system rather than the juvenile system.
Those who did not want this new law raised concerns that these older kids may not be prosecuted for criminal behavior if they are not tried as adults. However, teenagers who are tried as adults will have to suffer the consequences of their mistakes for the rest of their lives. Adult charges are public record, and a conviction can affect a child’s ability to attend college, get a job, earn a living and rent or buy a house.
People who fought to raise the minimum age argued that children’s brains are not fully developed. If they go through the juvenile court system instead of adult court, they have an opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Advocates for the new law said that children who are charged as juveniles:
In addition, all of this can result in lower crime rates in the state.
There are no guarantees that a 16- or 17-year-old won’t be tried as an adult. Judges make decisions on a case-by-case basis. Don’t leave your child’s future to chance. Fight back with the help of a criminal defense lawyer if your teen is charged with a crime.