North Carolina raises age minimum for juvenile criminal court

North Carolina’s juvenile criminal offenders typically appear in court proceedings specifically for minors. In December, the state raised the age minimum for appearing in juvenile court.

What is the new law?

The new law, which started in North Carolina’s Senate as Bill 207, was signed into law in 2021 to raise the minimum age for children to be required to appear in the juvenile court system. The big change is that children as young as 6 will no longer be made to appear in juvenile court. The minimum age has been increased to 10 years old. In spite of the change, children who are as young as 8 may still be brought into the juvenile court system if they have a prior judgment against them for delinquency or if they have committed a felony ranging from A to G severity.

How is the new law beneficial?

The new North Carolina law benefits the state itself due to reducing court expenses. Children also benefit as those who are very young no longer have to endure time spent in the court, which can be traumatizing and have long-lasting adverse effects. Another benefit lies in the area of children who are troubled and engaging in crime getting the opportunity to have access to mental health help if they need it.

Some children charged with delinquency may suffer from developmental or intellectual disabilities or mental illness. The new law aims to devise plans to care for those kids so that they can get the help they need. The Care Review Team is in place to do just that. The group will decide on the best course of action for providing help to those children.

Older kids at least 16 years old with class D and higher felony charges against them could be prosecuted in the juvenile court system or referred to superior court. The prosecutors will have the right to determine the route to take for older kids charged with such serious offenses.