When Can Children Be Tried as Adults in NC?

Most parents dread late night or early morning phone calls which inform them that their son or daughter has been arrested. The nightmare is much worse if the child is in custody for a felony or another serious crime. Typically, children go through North Carolina’s juvenile justice system. But that’s not always the case.

North Carolina’s two justice systems serve different purposes. Juvenile courts use methods like community service, education, and supervision to keep the juvenile from re-offending. In contrast, the adult justice system serves only to punish offenders, at least for the most part.

In North Carolina, children between ages six and 17 can be considered juvenile delinquents and treated as such.

When Can Minors be Charged as Adults?

Until recently, North Carolina was the only state in the Union where juveniles as young as 16 could be automatically prosecuted as adults. But lawmakers approved the “Raise the Age” law in 2017, which increased that minimum age from 16 to 18. All juvenile prosecutions start in juvenile court. Under this new law, there are three ways a child can be prosecuted as an adult in North Carolina:

  • Mandatory Waiver: Juvenile courts must transfer jurisdiction to adult criminal courts if the defendant allegedly committed a Class A felony (first-degree murder).
  • Discretionary Waiver: Depending on the facts of the case, the defendant’s criminal record, and some other factors, a juvenile court may transfer the case if the minor was at least 13 years old when s/he allegedly committed any felony offense.
  • Previous Transfer: In North Carolina, once a juvenile’s case is transferred to adult court, andy subsequent offenses must be tried in adult court as well, regardless of the facts and circumstances.

In both juvenile and adult court, a Raleigh criminal defense attorney typically settles cases out of court. This resolution usually includes a lesser sentence and/or reduced charges.

If your child has been charged with a serious criminal offense which could go to adult criminal court, the experienced legal team at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh, Attorneys at Law, are ready to fight for your child’s rights, freedom, and future. As former prosecutors with over a half-century of combined experience, our Raleigh criminal defense attorneys have a complete understanding of both adult and juvenile courts, so we can provide knowledgeable and personalized legal solutions. To arrange a free consultation, fill out the form below or call us at (919) 887-8040.