• 72°

NC House approves raising minimum age for prosecution in juvenile court to 8

By Gary D. Robertson, Associated Press

The minimum age in which a child could be prosecuted in North Carolina’s juvenile courts would rise from 6 to 8 in legislation approved by the House on Wednesday.

The age threshold change, contained in a broader juvenile justice bill largely recommended by an advisory panel and approved overwhelmingly by the House, would remove North Carolina as the state with the lowest age for juvenile adjudication set by law in the country.

There have been attempts this year to raise the minimum age to 10. But several lawmakers were concerned that 8- or 9-year-olds accused of the most violent or serious felonies could only receive up to nine months of counseling for their crimes.

“We can keep jurisdiction over them longer in juvenile court,” said Rep. Sarah Stevens, a Surry County Republican. She mentioned cases involving children as old as 9 who were accused of assault, forcible rape and arson. “We need to get them help and until we can otherwise (change) the system we need to ensure that they stay under our courts’ jurisdiction.”

The updated measure also states that 8- or 9-year-olds who had been previously declared delinquent would also return to court if they commit any felony, misdemeanor or infraction.

Rep. Marcia Morey, a Durham County Democrat and former District Court judge who heard juvenile cases, had filed her own bill that would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction to 10.

She unsuccessfully proposed a floor amendment that would have brought the minimum age to 10, saying it’s what experts on the advisory panel recommended and groups across the political spectrum support. Many panel members are appointed by legislative leaders.

Morey said third- and fourth-graders don’t understand court proceedings. The youths also would receive other assessments, social services and other assistance.

“They are impulsive. Their intellect is not fully informed,” Morey said while debating her amendment that was defeated in a 42-57 vote. “Do not start them off with a delinquency history.”

Billy Lassiter, deputy secretary for juvenile justice within the Department of Public Safety, told House committee members earlier Wednesday the new language was worked on with the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.

If the updated bill had already been law, Lassiter said, only 21 of the nearly 1,150 youths under 10 who were subjects of juvenile complaints during the three fiscal years from 2016 to 2019 still would have been subject to a complaint. And all but five of those youths would have been taken out of the system.

“We can live with this because I think it saves so many more kids,” Lassiter said. “We met in the middle. This is a compromise and I think it’s a good deal for us to move forward with.”

The full bill, approved by a vote of 101-1, now returns to the Senate for consideration.

The 6-year-old minimum of delinquency jurisdiction began in 1979 during a period when tough-on-crime legislation was common.

Twenty-eight states and Washington D.C. have no age specification, according to a Department of Public Safety report in March. Connecticut, Maryland and New York set the minimum age at 7.

Youths adjudicated in North Carolina juvenile court can receive probation or, when at least 10, can be sent to a youth development center.

READ ABOUT MORE NEWS HERE.

RECENT HEADLINES:

North Carolina bill repealing handgun purchase permit heading to governor

FEMA, North Carolina approve grant of over $4.2 million to elevate homes in Dare County

News

Hatteras Island firefighters battle Wednesday evening blaze in Avon

Lifestyles

All kinds of fishing going on

Lifestyles

NC State Fair: Vaccinations encouraged, not required

Crime

North Carolina man found in street with gunshot wounds dies

Lifestyles

Outer Banks Community Foundation awards $29,000 in grants to five nonprofits

Business

Miles Daniels named to Currituck Chamber Board of Directors

News

Public comment open for project to repair the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse, surrounding landscape

Crime

North Carolina man charged with child abuse after 4-year-old hospitalized with head injury

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to 10 years in prison for stealing ammunition, firearms

Crime

State Court of Appeals panel upholds murder conviction of North Carolina man

News

Dare school board hears public comments questioning masks; Farrelly reports quarantine numbers are falling

Currituck

Currituck commissioners implore drivers to exercise caution in school zones

Crime

North Carolina man charged in fatal shooting of son-in-law

News

In Kill Devil Hills, $3 million street and drainage improvement project to begin in fall

News

Speed limits increased on NC 12; night driving in place at CHNS

Crime

Police: North Carolina man found shot to death in front yard

Crime

North Carolina man sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for methamphetamine, firearm charges

Lifestyles

Dare CYP seeks community support for diaper drives

News

DMF schedules estuarine striped bass plan advisory committee workshop

News

North Carolina unemployment rate falls to 4.3% in August

Crime

North Carolina woman fatally shot, then hit by car

News

Two men killed, woman injured in head-on collision in North Carolina

News

Marc Basnight’s contributions to North Carolina to be recognized at special Senate floor meeting

News

North Carolina nurse wins $216,614 Cash 5 jackpot first time playing