The Wake County Board of Commissioners at its regular meeting on Monday, March 20, took a stand on House Bill 280, legislation that would raise the age at which people charged with certain crimes could be tried as adults. The board adopted a resolution during its regular meeting, urging state lawmakers to pass the bill and allow 16- and 17-year-olds to be prosecuted as juveniles – not adults.
"North Carolina is one of only two states in the nation that still tries 16- and 17-year-olds as adults, regardless of the severity of the crime," said Commissioner Jessica Holmes, who has led this effort for the board. "Changing the law is the right thing to do. It would not only save money, but more importantly, it would give teens who commit minor offenses the opportunity to get on a better path to becoming educated, productive citizens."
The bill would only shift the age of adulthood from 16 to 18 for people who commit crimes other than Class A though E felonies and traffic offenses. Data show 97 percent of crimes committed by 16- and 17-year-olds in North Carolina are characterized as either misdemeanors or nonviolent felonies.
Studies also reveal that teens prosecuted in the juvenile justice system are less likely to commit another crime compared to youth tried in the adult system. In addition, the juvenile justice system – with programs tailored to how teens think and learn – is more effective at rehabilitating teens, because their brains are still developing well into their 20s.
With the adoption of this resolution, Wake County joins a number of other local groups in support of changing the law. They include the N.C. Sheriffs' Association, N.C. Association of County Commissioners, N.C. Chamber of Commerce and N.C. Commission on the Administration of Law and Justice.
Read an electronic version of the resolution here.