The Effect That North Carolina’s Raise the Age Law Has Had
We previously discussed North Carolina’s Raise the Age law, which dictates that 16- and 17-year-olds who commit nonviolent crimes are no longer charged as adults and will have greater access to a number of services, including criminal record sealing. The law went into effect in December, and as a result, we have had a chance to see how it has been implemented, specifically, and what issues remain in terms of juveniles and criminal justice here in North Carolina.
There are a number of benefits associated with Raise the Age laws around the country. For example, recidivism rates have dropped by an average of more than 12 percent. Statistics also show that juveniles entering the adult criminal system are faced with a number of additional harms, such as higher rates of sexual assault and suicide.
How North Carolina’s Law Works
The law covers any 16- and 17-year-olds who committed Class H and I felonies and misdemeanors, but
- excludes motor vehicle offenses
- if a juvenile has a prior conviction, they are tried in adult criminal court (with the exception of motor vehicle infractions or misdemeanors that are not impaired driving charges)
- while Class A through G felonies (for example, armed robbery, murder, etc.) start in juvenile court, they are transferred to adult court if the juvenile is indicted or prosecutors find probable cause
The Law Still Does Not Apply Retroactively, Leaving Many Tried as Adults
One issue that was left unaddressed by North Carolina’s law was what to do about those juveniles who were convicted of crimes as adults before the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act went into effect because the law is not retroactive. In an effort to address this issue, lawmakers have introduced two bills in the General Assembly that will reportedly help to expunge their records and transfer those charged as adults to juvenile facilities.
Still, this does not address the many differences between being tried in juvenile justice versus adult court: The juvenile justice court counseling office determines whether a juvenile goes to court or, instead, complies with a contract to work with juvenile counselors for six months, which could then mean that they are done with the system. Juvenile courts can impose consequences that seek to rehabilitate rather than punish, and records cannot be released to the public without a court order.
If You or A Loved One Has Been Charged, Contact an Experienced North Carolina Juvenile Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one is a juvenile who has been charged with a crime, you need to work with an experienced North Carolina criminal attorney in order to ensure that your rights are protected. Contact the Hauter Law Firm, PC today to find out how our attorneys can best serve you.