When can the state charge a juvenile as an adult?

In most cases, the legal system handles children and adults differently. However, there are situations in which North Carolina law allows juveniles to face charges in adult court.

If your child is in a situation where he or she is facing criminal charges, it can help to understand the potential for the state to switch charges to the adult system. The North Carolina Judicial Branch explains that there is the potential for juveniles who are at least 13 years old to move to the adult court if they commit a felony crime.

Adult charges

Adult charges are also automatic if your child is at least 16 years old and commits a violent felony. In addition, any child age 16 or older will have his or her case become an adult matter for motor vehicle offenses.

Note about juveniles

You should note that in the case of criminal court, the juvenile system only has jurisdiction over children who are at least six years old. Children under the age of six will not face charges in any court of law.

In most cases, the juvenile court will handle cases for children ages six to 17. Once your child reaches age 18, he or she automatically will go to the adult system.

In the past, the law stated that juvenile court was only for up to age 15, but there were changes in that law in 2019 that raised the age to 17.

Transferring a case

For a case to go from juvenile court to adult court, a judge will hold a transfer hearing. The judge must have probable cause to believe that your child committed a felony. One exception is if your child commits a Class A felony. In this case, the judge does not need to hold a transfer hearing.