You may or may not know this, but North Carolina is finally taking steps to fix what many people (especially defense attorneys) believe is a 100-year-old mistake. That’s when North Carolina’s government defined 16-year-old children as “adults” under the criminal justice system.
The new “Raise the Age” law is set to take effect this December. Once it does, defendants under the age of 18 who are facing misdemeanor charges or the two lowest level of felonies will be tried in juvenile court instead of adult court. This is a major shift — and one that corrects double standards that currently exist in the law like the one that saw four teenagers (two who are 16 years of age and two who are 17 years of age) charged as adults for “possession of a handgun by a minor.”
It’s hard not to see the irony with that situation — but there’s no humor involved for the teens and their families dealing with the legal repercussions.
Treating minors like they are, in fact, still children isn’t a mistake. Even though a child may be “old enough to know better,” the reality is that there’s now ample evidence that the human brain doesn’t neurologically reach adulthood at 16 or 17. Impulsivity and a general lack of maturity often cause young offenders to get into trouble that older teens would avoid.
In addition, this is a good thing for the state as well. The evidence shows that teens who are treated like teenagers who made a mistake — rather than hardened adult criminals — get the right services and support to avoid ending up in the adult criminal justice system. In other words, for many juvenile offenders, their first mistake becomes their last.
If your teen or young adult has recently been charged with a crime, get experienced legal assistance today.