Every state has an age range that guides its juvenile justice system, with a minimum age as well as a cut-off age where juveniles are tried as adults. In North Carolina, the minimum age is lower than it is in any other state. Lawmakers are currently in discussions about whether this should be changed, and if so, how this should be done.
Currently, the minimum age to try young people in a court of law in North Carolina is six years of age. This has been the topic of much debate in the state. While most agree it should be increased as part of a series of criminal justice reforms in the state, the controversy stems around whether that increase should be to eight versus ten years of age. There are a few reasons this is a hot topic of discussion:
- Some argue that the juvenile justice system is a way to help kids who are dealing with issues such as personal challenges, trauma or mental health issues, and that raising the age above eight would interrupt important early interventions. Others feel these interventions should exist outside of the justice system.
- Some are concerned that trying children younger than 10 will criminalize them before they are old enough to have such intent. Others feel that by not doing so, children with dangerous tendencies will not be dealt with.
Interestingly, some experts recommend an even older minimum age for juvenile justice, such as 12 or 14. However, in North Carolina, the debate currently is centered on the options of 8 or 10 years of age. Again, currently six is the minimum age on the books in the state. Parents and guardians of those who are accused of a crime and facing juvenile court should speak to an attorney about potential defense options, as they may differ from those facing charges as an adult.