The state House of Representatives has overwhelmingly approved a bill that would end the state's practice of automatically charging 16- and 17-year-olds as adults. The 104-8 vote Wednesday sends the so-called "raise the age" bill on to the Senate.
North Carolina is the only remaining state that treats 16 and 17 year olds as adults, regardless of their crimes. New York lawmakers voted to end the practice last month.
The Juvenile Justice Reinvention Act (House Bill 280) would raise the age of juvenile jurisdiction for any crimes committed on or after Dec. 1, 2019. It says 16 and 17 year olds still could be tried as adults for serious crimes. And it would not apply to motor vehicle violations.
"The Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, I believe, will improve the justice system's response to teenagers under the age of 18," Rep. Chuck McGrady (R-Henderson), the bill's lead sponsor, said in a press release. "Studies show recidivism is lower when teens are handled in the juvenile system rather than the adult system."
The American Civil Liberties Union applauded Wednesday's vote.
“Sending kids into the adult criminal justice system puts their safety and future at risk and harms North Carolina’s communities in countless ways,” Susanna Birdsong of the ACLU of North Carolina said in a statement. “This bipartisan House vote is a hugely important step toward fixing a long overdue injustice that now exists only in North Carolina.”
See the bill's history and text at NCLeg.net