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May 15, 2017 |

North Carolina "Raise the Age" Bill

On April 10, the State of New York, passed a bill, which treats 16 and 17 years olds that commit a crime in the State as a juvenile and pushes their cases into the juvenile justice system. This leaves North Carolina as the only state that tries 16 and 17 years olds as adults regardless of the offense. Some other states charge juveniles as adults for very serious felonies, like rape, murder, etc. But after the New York bill goes into effect in October of 2018, North Carolina will remain the only state to charge 16 and 17 year olds as adults regardless of the offense that they are accused of committing.

There are however bills sitting in the North Carolina Legislature that could change this. The bills are collectively called "Raise the Age" bills. A very popular bill is House Bill 280 - the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act. If this bill were to become law, juveniles charged with non-violent crimes would go to Juvenile court where juveniles will get counseling, community service, and other assistance. In addition, the juveniles have the ability to avoid an adult criminal conviction. Class A through Class E felonies would immediately go to adult court. Class A through Class E felonies are the most serious crimes in the State of North Carolina, and include crimes like rape and murder. This bill is popular, with a majority of the members of the North Carolina House being co-sponsors of the legislation.

The North Carolina governor, Roy Cooper, is also very supportive of House Bill 280 and of the concept of "Raise the Age" bills, in general.

The North Carolina Senate is a different story. There are two bills in the North Carolina Senate and they differ from House Bill 280. Both Senate bills appear to have received a somewhat lukewarm reaction, with one bill having no Republican sponsors and the other bill have just a handful of sponsors from both parties. However, the lack of sponsors, doesn't mean that the bills will not garner enough votes to pass the Senate.

The Chief Justice of the North Carolina Supreme Court, Mark Martin, has come out in support of the concept of passing a "Raise the Age Bill" in North Carolina. The elected county prosecutors in North Carolina seem to have mixed feelings with some outright supporting the bill, and others like the Johnston County District Attorney Susan Doyle supporting the idea of passing a "Raise the Age" bill, but with provisions added (that are not currently in the bills) that would give prosecutors some discretion to bind-over (move) some juvenile cases to superior court and to try those juveniles as adults.

North Carolina is the last state to try all 16 and 17 year olds as adults. Whether it remains this way, remains to be seen. It does look like there is enough of a bipartisan push to pass a "Raise the Age" bill. And now, with the State of New York having successfully passed such a piece of legislation, North Carolina is the only State yet to "Raise the Age." Only time will tell if North Carolina will follow suit and join all the other states in the United States on this issue.