Raising the age of adult convictions in North Carolina from 16 to 18 years of age has found fresh support from a group including lawmakers, judges and attorneys.
The N.C. Courts Commission voted Friday to support raising the age.
Rep. Duane Hall, a Wake County Democrat, told the commission about his prior attempts to raise the age in 2013 and 2015, and how key figures now support the change.
North Carolina is one of two states in the nation that prosecutes 16- and 17-year-olds as adults.
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“One of the objections to the bills I had, was obviously cost, but all the studies and all other states have shown that juvenile (court) systems save states literally tens of millions of dollars,” Hall told the commission.
Prior bills to change the age statewide failed, Hall said, but professional police organizations and also North Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin now support the idea.
Some commission members voiced objections.
Caswell and Person counties district attorney Wallace Bradsher expressed concerns about placing 16- and 17-year-olds who are “hardened gang members” in the same system as 14- and 15-year-olds who commit lower-level crimes.
“To me, 16 and 17 is a dangerous, transitional age,” Bradsher said. “There isn’t enough resources in the juvenile court system to address the 16- and 17-year-olds who are well-developed and more criminally experienced than just the 16- or 17-year-old high school student that makes a youthful mistake.”
Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Surry County Republican, said the proposal generally focuses on misdemeanors – except impaired-driving and traffic violations – and nonviolent felonies like drug possession and break-ins.
Lauren Horsch: 919-836-2801, @LaurenHorsch