RALEIGH – Most 16- and 17-year-olds charged with crimes in North Carolina will no longer be treated as adults in the criminal justice system under the budget released today by the General Assembly. As part of the state budget, North Carolina will raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 18 for those charged with misdemeanors and some low-level felonies. The change will take effect in December 2019. North Carolina is the last remaining state in the country to charge all 16-and 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the offense. 

“We applaud legislators on both sides of the aisle for uniting behind this commonsense effort to do what’s right for the safety and future of North Carolina’s young people,” said ACLU-NC Policy Counsel Susanna Birdsong. “North Carolina’s century-old policy of sending 16- and 17-year-olds to adult jails and branding them with lifelong criminal records has been a blight on our state and done nothing to make our communities safer. It is long past time for young offenders in North Carolina to have the same opportunities as those in the rest of the country to turn their lives around through the juvenile justice system.” 

In May, the House overwhelmingly approved a bill to raise the age by a vote of 104 to 8. The bill’s language was based on a series of recommendations made by a commission chaired by North Carolina Chief Justice Mark Martin, who endorsed the proposal. The movement to “raise the age” in North Carolina has garnered wide-ranging support from children’s advocates, law enforcement agencies, and others.