North Carolina may raise offender age

Feb. 20, 2012 at 3:58 PM
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RALEIGH, N.C., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- A North Carolina legislator has reintroduced a bill raising the adult criminal offender age from 16 to 18.

The state law that treats 16-year-olds as adults is considered the toughest in the country and has been in effect since 1919, but Rep. Marilyn Avila hopes a new provision in a separate bill will incrementally raise the age to 18, the Norfolk Virginian-Pilot reported Monday.

"I feel very good about it," she said. "We've just got to do a lot of ground work."

Sixteen- and 17-year-olds in North Carolina are charged as adults for any crime, including misdemeanors. Only New York has laws equally strict, although judges in that state typically have discretion to remand offenders to juvenile courts.

The bill "would jeopardize public safety and overburden an already inadequate juvenile system," said Susan Doyle, president of the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys.

Changing the law would move 20,000 teens into the juvenile court system, doubling the load and costing the state $35 million annually, with local governments spending $3.4 million more, a 2009 report by the North Carolina Governor's Crime Commission estimated.

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