The Raise the Age initiative that went into effect in December of 2019 ensures that North Carolina’s minors charged with a crime go to trial in juvenile court. Previously, minors aged 16 and 17 automatically faced prosecution and trial as an adult, which resulted in a harsher punishment.
Law enforcement officials may now investigate, indict and charge minors under the jurisdiction of the juvenile legal system. According to the North Carolina Department of Public Safety, most non-violent charges that do not involve a motor vehicle can now proceed through the juvenile court system.
Examples of applicable non-violent offenses include theft or possession of stolen goods. Serious felony offenses, such as murder and armed robbery, may transfer to the adult court.
North Carolina’s juvenile court jurisdiction ends when a minor emancipates, joins the armed forces or marries.
The primary benefit of facing trial as a minor is avoiding a felony record. This means that an individual could apply for college and receive financial aid. He or she may also apply for housing and employment without disclosing a juvenile offense.
Unlike adult jails, the juvenile system focuses on education and rehabilitation. Officials encourage incarcerated youths to learn from their mistakes, which helps to prevent recidivism.
The community benefits when rehabilitated teens serve as a role model for other high-risk juveniles. Seeing their peers moving beyond a troubled past and becoming a productive member of society can encourage other juveniles to follow their example.
As reported by WITN News, North Carolina’s juvenile offense records remain sealed and protected. After completing a sentence, a protected record provides a juvenile with a second chance.