Written by Jonathan Breeden
When your child has been arrested for a crime or taken into custody for delinquent behavior, you might start to panic. If this is you or your child’s first experience with the law, you are probably unsure of how the process works. You may not know how to protect and fight for your child in this situation. When your child is accused of a serious crime, protecting them and fighting for their freedom becomes even more important. You should always contact a criminal defense lawyer to represent your child, and if there is any risk that your child’s case may move to the adult courts in North Carolina, then you need to call an attorney immediately.
In North Carolina, children between the ages of six and 15 are automatically charged as juveniles, at least until December 1, 2019. For most of this year, adolescents who are 16 or 17 will automatically be processed as adults, and their cases will go through the NC adult court system. After December 1, 2019, minors who are 17 years and younger will be considered juveniles.
However, under current law and the future Juvenile Reinvestment Act (which alters the age cut off), there are and will be exceptions for when a juvenile’s case can be transferred to the adult court system. When your child is facing a potential transfer, you need to call a criminal defense lawyer right away.
There are situations in which a juvenile case is automatically transferred to the adult court. Under the current law, if a juvenile judge finds there is probable cause that a child who is 13 years or older committed a class A felony, then they must transfer the case to the adult court without a transfer hearing. Because of this standard, it is important you hire a juvenile defense attorney right away. Your child’s lawyer may negotiate with the prosecution to have the charges reduced to a lower felony, and when necessary, will aggressively defend your child against a transfer.
After December 1, 2019, automatic transfers will occur for 16 and 17-year-olds who are charged with class A-G felonies. In other words, if these teenagers are accused of committing serious violent or sexual crimes, they will face charges in an adult courtroom. Additionally, if your child is accused of any motor vehicle offense, the case moves forward in an adult court.
In addition to situations in which judges must transfer juvenile cases to the adult courts, there are circumstances in which juvenile judges have discretion in making a transfer. If your child is at least 13-years-old and is accused of a serious felony offense, their case may be transferred. The judge will determine if there is probable cause your child committed the felony offense during a transfer hearing.
It is during these discretionary transfer hearings that your child should have an experienced criminal defense lawyer. By working with an aggressive defense attorney, there is a greater chance of demonstrating doubt in the charges and avoiding a transfer. Your child’s attorney may also work with the prosecutors to have a charge reduced to a misdemeanor that is not eligible for a discretionary transfer.
If your child is facing criminal charges, call Breeden Law Office today. Jonathan Breeden has years of experience as a juvenile criminal defense attorney. He will carefully review your child’s circumstances and take whatever steps are available under the law to keep your child’s case in the NC juvenile court system.