My child was recently arrested. Will he be charged as a juvenile or an adult?

Juvenile Court GavelIf your child has been arrested, you are probably terribly worried about what will happen to him. In North Carolina, minors under 18 years old are often treated differently if they are charged with a minor misdemeanor offense and not a violent felony crime. They can be charged as a juvenile rather than as an adult and have their case decided in juvenile court.

What Are the Benefits of Being Charged as a Juvenile?

In our state, children between the ages of six and 17 are considered juveniles, and their criminal cases will start in juvenile court. Unlike the adult justice system, the goal in the juvenile court system is rehabilitation and helping the minor child to avoid committing another crime in the future. Here are some of the benefits of juvenile court:

  • Infractions that juveniles commit are not referred to as crimes. They are called delinquent acts.
  • In juvenile court, the proceeding is referred to as an adjudication hearing and not a trial. These hearings are also more private than in adult criminal cases, which are heard in open court.
  • If the delinquent act was not violent, the child may be released prior to his adjudication hearing.
  • Because the focus of punishment is rehabilitation, a minor’s sentence for nonviolent crimes will more likely be community service, education, and supervision rather than incarceration.
  • A juvenile’s criminal records will be sealed so that they cannot be viewed by the public and will not have such long-term consequences on his life. If he successfully completes his sentence, he may be able to get his criminal record expunged when he turns 18 years old.
  • Juveniles have a right to be represented by an attorney and will be appointed a public defender if they cannot afford to hire one.

When Could a Juvenile Be Charged as an Adult?

If a minor commits a more serious offense, such as a drug offense, weapons crimes, assaults, or other serious felonies, they can automatically be charged as an adult. Here are three situations when their case can be sent to adult criminal court:

  • Prior adult charge. If a child had a previous criminal case transferred to adult court, any subsequent charges will also be heard in adult court no matter what the offense is.
  • Discretionary transfer. If a minor is 13 years old or older and committed a felony, the judge in the juvenile court has the discretion to transfer the case to adult criminal court.
  • Mandatory transfer. If a juvenile is charged with a Class A felony, such as first-degree murder, he will be charged and prosecuted as an adult.

If your child was arrested in Charlotte, he needs an experienced criminal defense attorney to help him fight to have the charges dismissed or reduced so that he achieves the best possible outcome given his situation. To find out how we can help, call our office to schedule a free consultation today.