North Carolina prepares to ‘Raise the Age’ teens can be tried in court as juveniles

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North Carolina state lawmakers prepare to increase the jurisdiction age a teen can be tried in court as a juvenile for non-violent crimes.

In 2017, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act was included in the state’s budget. This “Raise the Age” law will require courts to try 16 and 17-year-olds as juveniles, with some exceptions.

This law will go into effect in Dec. 2019 and once it does, North Carolina will become the last state in the country to put this in place.

Ultimately, supporters hope it saves taxpayers dollars down the road and prevents teens from moving deeper into the justice system.  

“This allows us to treat juveniles, as they should be, as juveniles and not adults. As they continue to mature, we will hope that they are able to learn valuable lessons and actually become productive citizens.”

Senator Don Davis, (D) NC District 5

During this year’s legislative session, lawmakers from both parties worked to make some modifications to that 2017 law through Senate Bill 413

For example, the bill clarified different rules pertaining to custody and pre-trail hearings. 

Lawmakers also received recommendations through the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee.

In a 2019 interim report, JJAC offered up recommendations for the implementation of the law, as well as funding recommendations needed.

Juvenile Age Interim Report – January 2019

The Committee suggests hiring on 233 new staff members and opening 300 new detention center beds. They also present a need for a Youth Assessment and Screening program. They say these recommendations are needed in order to “operate [‘Raise the Age’] at an expanded capacity.”

“We all look back and reflect on our lives and perhaps we didn’t make the best decisions early in life, and this allows juveniles to not be treated as an adult, but to be juveniles and a pathway to overcoming perhaps poor decisions early in life.”

Senator Don Davis, (D) NC District 5

Sen. Davis says a conference report concluded $28.8 million in the 2019-20 fiscal year and $42.5 million in 2020-21 are needed for the law; however, these figures are pending the approval of the state’s budget.

Lawmakers are expecting Governor Roy Cooper to sign off on Senate Bill 413’s modifications in the coming days.

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