A Minor Breaks the Law: Now What?

One of the most important facets of our judicial system in the United State of America is that our punishments for crime are meticulously judged and determined case by case. In regard to the violation of criminal statutes, there are very specific punishments for specific offenses, depending on the details of the crime, and most importantly, depending on the age of the defendant.

A “juvenile” is the term to define a minor, which in most states, refers to a person under the age of 18. The punishments for a juvenile are typically different from those of an adult. Depending on the state, the Juvenile Court process can be slightly more lenient than that of the adult court system. This means that the penalties are typically less extreme, due to the young age and level of development of the defendant. The state of North Carolina has carefully crafted law for those who are qualified as “juveniles.”

What are the classifications of a minor in North Carolina? 

In the state of North Carolina, all 16- and 17-year-olds are treated as adults in the criminal justice system, regardless of their alleged criminal offense. In fact, North Carolina and New York are the only two states that follow this precedent. This means that all 16- and 17-year olds who are incarcerated are put into adult prisons or jails, adhering to the same punishments as others incarcerated. This means that a minor in North Carolina is anyone under to age of 16-years-old.

The Juvenile Court Process

The first step in the juvenile court process occurs when a complaint is made accusing a minor (under the age of 16-years-old) of committing a crime or infraction under state law or local government. A juvenile can then be taken into temporary custody for up to 12 hours, following by an intake meeting where the complaint is processed by a court counselor.

During the intake meeting, the court counselor files the complaint under one of three categories: 1) the complaint is dismissed; 2) the case is diverted; 3) a petition is filed.

If the case is diverted, there are various consequences that must be completed: community service, mediation, counseling, etc. If a petition is filed, then the juvenile delinquent will be summoned to appear in court, which is mandatory. If the juvenile is taken into custody, there are two types that can occur: secure (juvenile jail) and non-secure (foster home, psychiatric facility, or relative’s home).

What are their rights in court?

If the case is brought to court, then the juvenile has specific rights just as other citizens do. They have the right to a lawyer, the right to remain silent, the right to being notified of all charges made against them in court, and the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses.

There are many details and intricacies that go into a minor who breaks the law. Being charged with a crime, especially as a minor, can be a very difficult and stressful time. The attorneys at Wentz Law Firm and high trained and well-qualified to represent both adults and minors who have been charged with a criminal offense. We promise to represent with honor and integrity throughout the entire process. Please contact us if you are in need of excellent representation.

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