Raising the age for teens charged with misdemeanors? - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Raising the age for teens charged with misdemeanors?

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Legislatures and law enforcement authorities met Tuesday in Raleigh to discuss a proposal that would raise the age limit on juveniles charged with low-level crimes.

Currently, North Carolina is one of only two states that charges 16 and 17-year-olds as adults for misdemeanor crimes.

The proposal would raise the age limit to 18.

"Young people ought to have the opportunity for a second chance," said NC House Representative Beverly Earle. 

Earle says 16 and 17-year-olds accused of misdemeanor crimes shouldn't be charged as adults.

The democrat supports the idea of raising the age limit to 18.

She says a criminal record can follow you into adulthood.

"You have that question on an application, 'have you been convicted of whatever?', and all you have to do is answer yes and often times you don't even get an interview," said Earle.

North Carolina and New York are the only two states that still charge 16 and 17-years-old as adults for misdemeanor crimes.

Low-level crimes can include possession of marijuana, trespassing and simple assault. The proposal to raise the age has come up before, but didn't gain steam.

Opponents say the change is "soft" on crime. They argue it would cost the state millions of dollars in accommodations and overload an already crowded juvenile system.

"Until the state can financially afford it I don't they're ready to make that step," said Chipp Bailey, sheriff of Mecklenburg County.

Bailey is against amending the law. Currently, his jail holds about 100 16 and 17-year-old low-level offenders.

He says moving them to a juvenile facility means they would miss out on programs such as getting a high school education.

"They're not having a record, but they're not getting the kind of support mechanisms, family support or even support resources for their drug use, gang affiliations and especially their education," said Bailey.

Still, supporters say teens don't belong in adult jails and the state will save more money in the long run by getting young offenders back on track.

The proposed bill will go before legislatures early next year.



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