Juvenile Court in North Carolina

The Laws Affecting North Carolina “Juveniles”

The term “juvenile” makes many people think of children and teenagers. In reality, North Carolina law defines a juvenile as anyone under the age of 18 who is unmarried, in the military, or “emancipated,” meaning no longer living as a dependent with parents or caregivers.

However, the definition is changing as of December 2019: North Carolina’s “Raise the Age” law will expand the definition of juveniles to include 16 and 17-year-olds.

The Ins and Outs of Juvenile Court

Juveniles who are charged with crimes will typically be heard in juvenile court. In delinquency cases, North Carolina juvenile courts have jurisdiction over children between the ages of six and 16. For undisciplined cases, the juvenile court has jurisdiction over children who are between the ages of six and 18.

Penalties for juveniles and adults differ: First and foremost, a juvenile who is found to be at fault for a crime in juvenile court will not end up with a conviction on his or her record.

Once a judge determines a juvenile is at fault, another hearing – called a disposition hearing – will determine the penalties. At the disposition hearing, the judge has several options. He or she may continue the case for up to six months, place the juvenile on probation, or choose from a list of options that include the following, among others:

  • Placing the juvenile in another person’s custody, different from where the juvenile was previously living
  • Requiring the juvenile to pay back the victims or perform community service
  • Placing the juvenile in counseling or other community programs or group homes
  • Ordering a jail sentence

Charges and Penalties

In some cases, juveniles can be charged as adults. For instance, when they commit a crime at age 16 or older, they will be automatically charged as adults and will face adult penalties. In December, this will apply to those who are 18 and older. Also, juveniles who are 13 or older who commit a felony may be transferred to adult criminal court at a court’s discretion.

If you are under 18 and have been charged with a crime, a criminal defense attorney can help you navigate the court system, steering you through the proceedings and helping you reduce your charges if possible. If you find yourself in need of assistance, Jeremy Cotten can help. He has served hundreds of clients through Wake, Johnston, Harnett, Orange, Sampson, Lee, and Chatham Counties. Give him a call or click over to the main page to speak with a legal assistant 24 hours a day.