When Can a Juvenile be Charged as an Adult in North Carolina?

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “As a parent, what should I be aware of when speaking to police about charges my child faces?”


As a parent, you do everything you can to provide a happy, healthy, and safe environment for your children. Every parent dreads getting a late-night phone call from the police regarding some alleged wrongdoing on the part of your child. Whether your child is a teen or almost an adult, he or she is not yet fully grown and is therefore not an adult. You may assume that because your child is younger than 18 he will go through the juvenile court system. However, the legal system does not necessarily see it the same way.


time-out-Charlotte-Juvenile-charges-attorney-203x300The law distinguishes between juvenile and adult offenders. While we usually think of juveniles as those under the age of 18, the courts can charge people as adults once they reach age 16 under some circumstances. Juveniles are subject to lower penalties than adults and typically if they must be retained they will be held in juvenile detention centers rather than in adult prison facilities. When someone under the age of 18 is convicted of a crime it may result in serious and life-changing consequences, depending on the nature of the situation. An experienced criminal defense attorney will evaluate the case and defend the juvenile to ensure the best possible results.


How Can Juveniles be Charged as Adults?


Up until several years ago, North Carolina was the only state in which people aged 16 and older were charged as adults. In 2017, a new law was enacted that increased the minimum age of adult prosecution to 18. However, there are some exceptions to the law. The exceptions allow those juveniles as young as 13 to be prosecuted as adults. These are the three ways that a juvenile may be prosecuted as an adult in North Carolina.


  • Class A Felony – When the crime allegedly committed is a Class A felony, the juvenile will be transferred to the adult court system through a mandatory waiver.
  • Discretionary Waiver – The prosecution may request a discretionary waiver based on the facts of the case such as the age of the youth, the severity of the crime, and the previous criminal history of the defendant.
  • Previous Transfer – Once a case is transferred to adult court, subsequent offenses will also go through adult court, regardless of the circumstances of the case.


Juvenile Court Jurisdiction


Juvenile court has jurisdiction over juveniles between the ages of 6 and 18. According to state law, juveniles under the age of 6 cannot be adjudicated delinquent. Juvenile courts will continue to oversee adults past the age of 18 when they were originally prosecuted as juveniles. Local court rules over the proceedings of juvenile prosecutions. A detention hearing generally must occur no later than five days after detainment. Youth in juvenile court have a right to an attorney, just as those charged as adults. There are two types of juvenile detainment facilities including juvenile detention centers and youth development centers.


If your juvenile has been charged with a crime, you will want to seek legal representation as soon as possible. Contact our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC to discuss the details of the case with an initial case evaluation. Please contact us today to get a phone, video or in-person consultation by calling at (704) 370-2828 to speak with our detail-oriented and well-versed lawyers with offices in Charlotte, Lake Norman, and Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today or find additional resources here.







The criminal defense attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC make it their mission to zealously defend their clients on a wide range of criminal matters at both the state and federal levels. These matters may include any charge from traffic offenses; DWI/DUI; drug charges (from simple possession to possession with intent to distribute and trafficking); gun permit denials; weapons offenses; and property crimes (larceny, breaking and entering, robbery, fraud, embezzlement, white collar offenses); to sexually related offenses (indecent exposure; sexual assault, crimes against nature, removal from sex offender registry); and violent crimes (domestic violence; assault; manslaughter; homicide, murder). Other legal issues that Arnold & Smith, PLLC criminal clients may be facing include restraining orders, restraining order and probation violations, expungements; appeals; and immigration issues related to criminal charges. Our criminal defense attorneys are passionate about ensuring that individuals empower themselves by being informed about their constitutional rights, and stand at the ready to fight in the defense of those facing criminal charges.







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