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Report calls for North Carolina to raise the juvenile age

On Behalf of | Aug 18, 2016 | Firm News

While the immediate concerns for anyone facing criminal charges are naturally how much time they could spend behind bars and how much they might have to pay in fines, it’s important for them to consider collateral consequences as well.

Indeed, a criminal conviction will go on a person’s permanent criminal record, meaning they may see everything from their employment prospects and educational opportunities to their housing options adversely affected. 

As disconcerting as all this can be to adults, consider how much worse it can be for teenagers who have made a one-time mistake in judgment and may end up feeling the consequences for decades to come.

Indeed, the situation is perhaps even grimmer for teen offenders here in North Carolina given that the state has firmly set the age of legal adulthood at 16, meaning teens as young as 16 and 17 are not able to avail themselves of the rehabilitative advantages offered by the juvenile court system or even have their court records sealed.

How many other states besides North Carolina set the age of legal adulthood at 16?   

Currently, only North Carolina and New York set the legal age of adulthood at 16. However, New York law does provides teen offenders with the opportunity to petition for juvenile status.

As for the remaining states, seven set the legal age of adulthood at 17, while the other 41 set the legal age of adulthood at 18.

Is there any effort underway to change this?

A subcommittee of the North Carolina Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice recently released a report calling for the juvenile age to be raised for the majority of crimes. Here, the arguments are that it would not only cut costs and reduce crime, but also provide 16- and 17-year-old offenders with a much-needed chance at redemption.

Are there any figures to support this argument?

According to the report, a mere 3.3 percent of 16- and 17-year-olds were charged with violent felonies in 2014, while more than 80 percent were charged with only misdemeanors. These figures, the subcommittee argues, only serve to highlight why it’s unnecessary and unjust to subject these young people to the adult court system.

It’s also worth noting that the report determined that there was a 7.5 percent decrease in recidivism among teens who went through the juvenile court system and that a 2011 report put the estimated cost savings of raising the juvenile age at $52 million.

Is the juvenile age going to be raised anytime soon?   

Experts indicate that raising the juvenile age is always something of a political hot potato, as state lawmakers are loathe to appear soft on crime. However, they also indicated that as more law enforcement officials speak out in support of raising the juvenile age, lawmakers might prove more willing to support the idea.

Stay tuned for updates …

If you have been arrested or are under investigation for any sort of violent crime, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible.