Criminal activity is not always reserved for adults, and statistics make that clear. According to a 2019 study from the United States Department of Justice, there may be nearly 700,000 juveniles arrested in a given year. Most frequently, juveniles are arrested for simple assault, followed by larceny (theft of personal property) and drug abuse violations. The wisest decision for one of these minors after they are charged with a crime–as well as for their parents or guardians–is to seek legal counsel immediately.
For a quick overview, though, what actually happens when a young person is arrested?
In North Carolina, much of the answer depends on the juvenile’s age and on the type of offense they are accused of committing. For example, juveniles who are 16 or 17 years old and commit a motor vehicle offense will be charged as adults. This means that a 16-year-old with a fresh driver’s license and a lead foot will be charged for speeding as an adult. If they violated a speeding law, it doesn’t matter that the young driver is not quite 18 yet.
Similarly, if a juvenile is accused of committing a felony and is at least 13, a juvenile court judge might “transfer” the juvenile to an adult court. The transfer is sometimes mandatory if the offense is serious enough. The reasoning behind this requirement is that a 13-year-old who commits first-degree murder is no longer acting as a child. Rather, they have committed an advanced, adult crime and thus must face the appropriate adult consequences.
It matters which court a juvenile is tried in because juvenile courts and adult courts can have drastically different procedures and punishments. Whereas a juvenile can face a criminal conviction in an adult court, the worst they can face in a juvenile court is what is called an “adjudication of delinquency.” There are some key differences between criminal convictions and adjudications of delinquency. Criminal convictions are public record and can result in the forfeiture of certain citizenship rights. An adjudication of juvenile delinquency, on the other hand, is not public record. And although juvenile court is open, meaning the public can observe a juvenile proceeding, a judge may close the courtroom to protect sensitive information about those involved in the case. Moreover, while a juvenile offender can face time served in a juvenile detention facility, the juvenile will not lose citizenship rights the way a criminally convicted offender would.
Please be advised that all juveniles who are charged with a crime have the right to an attorney in juvenile court proceedings. Only juveniles who are alleged to be delinquent have the right to a court-appointed attorney paid for by the State, though. If you wish to retain a private attorney to represent your child in juvenile court, or for any other criminal defense matter, please call King Law Offices, PLLC to retain one of our skilled criminal defense attorneys.