Starting in December 2019, 16- and 17-year-olds who commit misdemeanors and some felonies will no longer be charged as adults in the criminal justice system.
The language in the final budget bill has not yet been released, but legislators announced their agreement at a press conference Monday evening. If the final budget is approved, North Carolina will officially become the last state in the nation to raise the juvenile age of prosecution.
Details were scant at the press conference, but Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson) said there is planning and funding in the budget for raise the age legislation.
He also said that the language agreed upon would mean raising the age for teens charged with misdemeanors and two classes of felonies. There are 10 classes of felonies.
Sen. Shirley Randleman (R-Stokes, Surry, Wilkes) said raise the age would be implemented in December 2019, per the budget.
Legislators are hopeful the budget will be posted online tonight. If so, the Senate expects to vote on it Tuesday and Wednesday. If not, they will vote Wednesday and Thursday, according to Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger.
Advocates have been working for years to raise the age in North Carolina. In May, the House overwhelmingly approved House Bill 280, a raise the age measure that was crafted based on a series of recommendations made by a commission chaired by state Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Martin, who endorsed the proposal.
“We applaud legislators on both sides of the aisle for uniting behind this commonsense effort to do what’s right for the safety and future of North Carolina’s young people,” said ACLU-NC Policy Counsel Susanna Birdsong. “North Carolina’s century-old policy of sending 16- and 17-year-olds to adult jails and branding them with lifelong criminal records has been a blight on our state and done nothing to make our communities safer. It is long past time for young offenders in North Carolina to have the same opportunities as those in the rest of the country to turn their lives around through the juvenile justice system.”