In 2017, North Carolina relinquished its title as the only state in the U.S. that automatically prosecuted juveniles 16 and older as adults. As a result of the North Carolina General Assembly’s Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, most 16 and 17 year olds will now be prosecuted in juvenile court instead of the adult court system.
Beginning December 1, 2019, a “delinquent juvenile,” as defined in N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-1501(7), will include 16 and 17 year olds who commit crimes or infractions, except for motor vehicle laws, or indirect contempt by a juvenile. However, under the new law, once a juvenile has been convicted of any offense in either district or superior court, including violations of motor vehicle laws, the juvenile must be prosecuted as an adult for all subsequent offenses. This means that if a teenager already has an adult conviction when the new law becomes effective, the law will not benefit them.
The new law provides that all offenses committed by 16 and 17 year olds will originate in juvenile court. This means that 16 and 17 year olds accused of misdemeanors and low-level felonies such as larcenies, break-ins and other non-violent crimes, will now have a chance to for their cases to be handled in juvenile court. Since studies have shown that children in the juvenile system are less likely to return to jail, North Carolina is finally taking a step towards reducing its growing prison populations.
What has not changed is that violent teenagers can still be moved into the adult system. Class A-G felonies that are committed by 16 and 17 year olds require mandatory transfers to superior court by a notice of an indictment or a finding of probable cause by the court. However, this new provision will provide prosecutors with the ability to maintain some discretion by reducing charges before the time for filing or a probable cause hearing.
If you are charged with a misdemeanor offense and are 16 or 17 years old contact The Law Offices of Wiley Nickel, PLLC for a free consultation. Until the “Raise the Age” Bill becomes effective we can handle cases for 16 and 17 years olds in adult criminal court.