North Carolina Law Change Seeks to Protect Accused Teens

North Carolina has the toughest laws in the country for 16 and 17-year-olds accused of crimes. Since 1919, these young people are tried as adults if they are charged with any crime, felonies as well as misdemeanors.

A bill has been introduced to North Carolina lawmakers in a second attempt to raise the adult criminal offender age to 18. Currently, 16 and 17-year-old children who commit any type of crime are treated like adults and end up receiving adult punishments, including serving jail time in adult prisons along with people who are older than their grandparents.

Those in support of the bill feel good about helping juveniles stay out of the adult court system but also recognize that there will be a lot of work that needs doing if the bill passes later this year. If it does, approximately 20,000 criminal cases will be transferred into the juvenile court system.

Opponents of the bill have grave concerns about how the system will hold up under the increased caseload and feel public safety will be compromised.

With a law change, state officials estimate that $35 million will be needed to cover the additional juvenile cases. No statement has been made about the amount of savings that will be realized by the exit of those 20,000 cases from the adult criminal system.

Source: UPI.com, “North Carolina may raise offender age,” UPI editors, 2/20/12