When Can a Child Be Tried as an Adult in NC?

One of the most terrifying moments in a parent’s life is getting a call in the middle of the night or early morning to discover their child is in police custody. While your child will most likely be subject to the juvenile court system, it may be possible that he/she could be tried as an adult in North Carolina.

The juvenile system is designed to rehabilitate your child through education, community programs, and treatment in order to ensure he/she doesn’t become a repeat offender. By contrast, the adult court system is meant to punish those who commit crimes.

The minimum age a child can be considered a delinquent in the juvenile court system is six years old, while the maximum age is 17 years of age.

When a Minor Can be Charged as an Adult

North Carolina used to be the only state in the country to automatically prosecute juveniles who are at least 16 years old as adults. However, state legislators passed the “Raise the Age” legislation in 2017, raising the minimum age from 16 to 18.

Keep in mind, this law doesn’t apply until December 1, 2019. Until then, 16- and 17-year olds can still be tried as adults.

The following are three ways a child can be sent to the adult court system in North Carolina:

  • A mandatory waiver – The juvenile court must transfer jurisdiction to adult criminal court if a youth offender between the ages of 13- and 17-years-old allegedly commits a Class A felony.
  • A discretionary waiver – The juvenile court can transfer jurisdiction to adult court if the minor was at least 13 years of age at the time he/she allegedly committed a felony offense.
  • A previous transfer – In the state, one a juvenile’s case has been transferred to adult court, he/she will always be prosecuted as an adult in subsequent criminal proceedings.

If your child has been arrested for a serious criminal offense with the possibility of being charged in adult criminal court, our experienced legal team at Sandman, Finn & Fitzhugh are ready to fight for his/her rights, freedom, and future. As former prosecutors, we have a comprehensive understanding of juvenile and adult court to provide your child with knowledgeable and personalized legal solutions.

For more information, contact us and schedule a free consultation today.


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