Criminal law

More teens will be prosecuted and treated as adults under the new North Carolina law


Raleigh, North Carolina A bipartisan bill signed into law this week makes some big changes to North Carolina’s juvenile justice system, requiring more juveniles to be tried in adult court and making it easier for police to search for them.

Supporters say the changes in House Bill 186 It is needed because of a spike in violent crime among juvenile offenders in the past year, but critics say it is eroding juvenile justice reforms introduced in 2017 and earlier.

North Carolina Sheriffs Association General Counsel Eddie Caldwell says law enforcement knew who the suspect was, but they didn’t. I couldn’t publish a brochure for him Because he was younger than 18 years old.

“Soon after he killed the teens, they got a reliable tip that he had gone to Delaware,” Caldwell told WRAL News. “So they were in a situation where they were looking for a teenager in Delaware. They couldn’t tell anyone the teenager’s last name, and they couldn’t release the pictures.”

The new law allows a judge to decide whether to publish names, photos and other information about juveniles who are suspected of violent crimes and could pose a threat to public safety or to themselves. In an emergency, law enforcement will be allowed to release that information without a court order.

The original law, which Caldwell says has been on the books for decades, was intended to protect the identity of juveniles. “But when you have someone who has committed murder, they give up all their rights to anonymity,” he added.

Another section of the new law requires that people ages 13 to 15 accused of first-degree murder be tried in adult, rather than juvenile, court if they are indicted by a grand jury, or if a judge finds probable cause. committed the crime.

The change comes after the mass shooting in Raleigh’s Hedingham neighborhood last year, when police said a 15-year-old killed five people and injured two others.

Under current law, the suspect, Austin Thompson, should have been as well He was tried in juvenile court first Before the case is transferred to the adult court. The new law skips this step.

The law would also require that 16- and 17-year-olds be tried as adults for violent crimes such as armed robbery, rape or manslaughter, removing some of the discretion the current law gives to prosecutors in those cases.

“It’s a response to some of the major issues that we’ve seen,” said Rep. Marcia Morey, D-Durham, a retired judge and advocate for juvenile justice reform.

Morey noted that North Carolina was the last state in the country to treat 16-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system until 2017, when But the “raise the age” law changed that.

“We decided in 2017 that with brain development and age development, it was appropriate to treat 16- and 17-year-olds in the juvenile system,” Morey told WRAL News. “What we’re seeing here is a throwaway of that premise.”

Morey noted that the changes would allow prosecutors to bypass the juvenile justice system entirely, leaving defendants without the protection and confidentiality offered by the juvenile justice system.

“It’s getting tougher because it doesn’t matter how old you are, if it was a bad crime, they will hold them accountable and make their names public,” she said.

However, Caldwell said this is a reflection of what he sees as law enforcement and prosecutors.

“Children, younger and younger, are committing more and more serious crimes,” he said.

The new law will go into effect on December 1. It is not retroactive.


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