RALEIGH, N.C. – Most 16- and 17-year-olds charged with crimes in North Carolina will no longer be treated as adults in the criminal justice system under the budget announced Monday by the North Carolina General Assembly.
According to the presser legislators held regarding the state budget, North Carolina will raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 for those charged with misdemeanors and some low-level felonies.
Law enforcement agencies and children's advocates alike have shown support for raising the ages, citing a host of reasons from legal issues to developmental problems based on how a teen is tried in the justice system.
The change would take effect in December 2019. North Carolina is the last remaining state in the country to charge all 16-and 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the offense.
The North Carolina chapter of the ACLU, a vocal opponent of the century-old policy, released a statement, reading:
“We applaud legislators on both sides of the aisle for uniting behind this commonsense effort to do what’s right for the safety and future of North Carolina’s young people,” said ACLU-NC Policy Counsel Susanna Birdsong. “North Carolina’s century-old policy of sending 16- and 17-year-olds to adult jails and branding them with lifelong criminal records has been a blight on our state and done nothing to make our communities safer. It is long past time for young offenders in North Carolina to have the same opportunities as those in the rest of the country to turn their lives around through the juvenile justice system.”
In May, the House overwhelmingly approved a bill to raise the age for criminal offenders to be tried as adults.