GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — A new state law went in to effect on December 1, and it’s changing the way teenagers are tried for non-violent crimes.
It’s called the “Raise the Age” Act.
The act was originally signed in to law by Governor Roy Cooper in June of 2017.
North Carolina is one of the last states across the U.S. to pass and implement the act.
“The thinking behind it is that it still holds juveniles accountable for their conduct, but at the same time in the juvenile system there will be some additional resources available for juvenile offenders for them to hopefully make their first contact with the criminal justice system their last,” said Scott Thomas, District Attorney for Craven County.
Courts are still able to use their discretion in certain cases.
“By keeping [teens] out of the system, and showing them better paths of life, we hope that it helps these young people be more productive citizens, learn from their mistakes, and not feel the impact of that bad decisions forever,” said Senator Jim Perry.
While Thomas tells WNCT they will still do everything in their power to achieve justice, and protect victims of crime, lawmakers and local officials are viewing the act as a a positive improvement overall.
“People just don’t understand how hard it is if you do want to get your life together…because of this scarlet letter that follows you around for the rest of your life,” said Perry.
With the added amount of 16 and 17 year-olds being tried as juveniles, local officials say they’ll need additional funding since juvenile cases take longer to move through the system, and involve more people.
“We’re hoping the legislature in the next legislative session will come through with the promised funding for additional prosecutors…so that we can carry out the intent of the legislation,” said Thomas.
Thomas also said if a teen commits a traffic offense, or anything related to driving while impaired they will still be handled in the district court system.
For more information on the “Raise the Age” act, click here.