Raise the age... doesn't cover everyone

North Carolina recently took the plunge and joined the other 49 States raising the age for a juvenile to be prosecuted as an adult. A person stops being a "juvenile" in North Carolina at the age of 16. In December that will change to the age of 18. A few attorneys and I were discussing this issue the other day and there was a good bit of confusion over which types of matters will be "prosecuted" in juvenile court and which will transfer to adult court. Most of the sentiment was that all cases will remain in juvenile court except capital murder cases. That isn't true.

First though, how long does a case remain in juvenile court if it is "prosecuted" there? Well, if the juvenile is under the age of 16 at the time of the offense, the court will have jurisdiction until the juvenile reaches the age of 18. If the juvenile is between 16 and 17 years old then jurisdiction will last until the juvenile turns 19 years old. Finally, if the juvenile is between 17 and 18 years old, then the juvenile can remain under the jurisdiction of juvenile court until the juvenile turns 20 years old. When we're discussing "jurisdiction" we would technically be discussing matters such as probation violations, reviews, etc.

Now, the question is, who isn't given the protection of the juvenile justice system?

- Juveniles alleged to have committed a capital offense must be transferred to the adult system if probable cause is found.

- Emancipated juveniles.

- Any juvenile who has their matter transferred to Superior Court and they get convicted.

- Any juvenile who has previously been convicted in District Court or Superior Court for a felony or a misdemeanor (including a motor vehicle offense) would ultimately have any subsequent matter they're accused of prosecuted as an adult.

I was looking through this list and I began to wonder about the rules as they relate to "transferring" a case to Superior Court. Well, any Class A-G felony SHALL transfer to Superior Court for prosecution as an adult if the juvenile is indicted by a grand jury or if probable cause is found. The Court MAY transfer any Class H or I felony upon motion of any party.

This new statute leads me to some interesting thoughts and I'm curious as to everyone else's opinion or questions people may have. Some of my questions, however, are:

- What about those kids under the age of 18 now that they have been prosecuted as adults? What's going to happen with their prior convictions? What if they're on probation under the adult system but it's for a case that should have been prosecuted as a juvenile - does the case get transferred to juvenile jurisdiction?

- Could the intent of the legislature seriously have been to prosecute as an adult a juvenile for a dime bag of marijuana because he proved himself to be a major public menace by paying a ticket for a dead registration on his car?

- How many juveniles are going to figure out that perhaps the better method for them (depending on their case of course) is to ask the Court to transfer them to juvenile court and then negotiate entry into one of our diversion programs that are available to adults and then simply ask that the matter be expunged later on?

- On a more "practical" front, how is the State going to pay for this and where are they going to make up for the lost revenue (fines and court costs make up about $700 million of the general fund)?

What kind of questions or concerns do you have?

I'm glad to see that North Carolina's legislature has finally acknowledged what so many people have been aware of - that the juvenile mind develops significantly slower than we initially thought and made these changes. However, with all of the exceptions to the "Raise the Age" law and the various intricacies in what may be in your best interest, it is more imperative than ever that you obtain the services of a qualified attorney that is willing to fight for you.

If you're looking for help with a juvenile delinquency matter or are charged with a crime, be sure to call the Law Office of Michael Macht at 828-252-0002 to speak with Mike about your issue.