Numerous studies have been conducted that reveal what most parents already understand: adolescents often exhibit an underdeveloped sense of responsibility and an apparent lack of maturity. In turn, they're more inclined to make more impulsive decisions that aren't based on logic or valid reasoning in comparison to decisions made by adults. For this reason, many child advocacy groups across the country have spoken out against children being regarded in the same fashion as adults by the nation's criminal justice system, even when they commit serious crimes.
This has especially been a concern for advocates and representatives in North Carolina - the last state to raise the age for adult court for juveniles. Under current state legislation, 16 and 17-year-olds who commit crimes are charged as adults for offenses. But after a five-year journey of lobbying and debates pertaining to the treatment of juveniles in the court system, North Carolina finally voted to end its streak as the only state in the nation that still charges minors as adults, despite the crime committed. The successful efforts to reform this sector of the system were added to the final state budget by the legislature. And even though the new law won't go into effect until 2019, many representatives and advocates are excited about the changes.
“This is long overdue, but this is good for the state and especially good for our youth who deserve a fair chance in life,” said Duane Hall, a North Carolina representative. He has vehemently fought for the state to raise the age since 2013. “As someone who has defended these kids in the courtroom, I know how important this bill is for their future, and for our state.”
Hall and other supporters of the bill claim that New York's recent decision to reform their juvenile system pressured the state of North Carolina to also overhaul its system. In addition to the concern of being isolated, criticism from members of the state's supreme court and other public political figures also created a sense of urgency within the state legislature.
The law will most importantly prove to be beneficial for the young people who have already experienced the lasting effects of an adult criminal conviction on their records. Olivia Brown is a 17-year-old who was cited for two misdemeanors - assault and having a weapon on school property - when she pepper-sprayed a girl in the midst of a school fight last year. She has already been turned down for employment opportunities due to criminal history background checks. Brown and her family have been in and out of court in hopes of one day getting the charges dismissed. Brown says that the conviction may hinder her chances of getting into college and becoming a psychologist.
However, with the passing of the new bill, parents, legislators and advocates alike hope that things start to finally look up for juveniles who make mistakes in their prime.
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The attorneys at Caulder & Valentine understand that criminal convictions on anyone's record may hinder opportunities and create obstacles on the road to success. Contact us today for a consultation.