Who is Considered a Minor in North Carolina?

Charlotte Criminal Lawyer Brad Smith answers the question: “What are the long term effects of being convicted of a crime?”


It is not surprising that minors and adults are treated differently under the law when it comes to committing crimes. Minors are still learning and growing into adults and often face less stringent repercussions for committing, or being accused of a crime than an adult committing the same crime. This begs the question, who is considered a minor for crimes committed in North Carolina? Is there always a strict age defining a minor, or can the age of minority shift depending on the crime?


my-graduate-ring-Minor-criminal-charges-Charlotte-Lake-Norman-Mooresville-Criminal-Defense-Lawyer-300x227A North Carolina statute states that “a minor is any person who has not reached the age of 18 years.” Without another statute or law that conflicts or explains this definition further, most people take this to mean someone who is aged 17 or younger is considered a minor in the eyes of a criminal court. This is the general statute that defines what age a minor is, but there are some statutes that specifically define minor for their own uses and implementations.


Cases involving minors are tried in juvenile court. The goal of juvenile court and any sentences handed down to minors is rehabilitation so that these minors do not grow into adults and become repeat offenders. North Carolina used to be the only state that said minors in the court system were under the age of 16, not 18. Thankfully, this age has increased.


This definition of a minor as someone under the age of 18 might seem like a hard and fast rule dictating how to deal with younger individuals in the criminal justice system. However, there are exceptions to when a minor, someone under the age of 18, can be tried as an adult for a crime.


There are three general ways in which a minor can be tried as an adult:


  • Mandatory Waiver: The mandatory waiver means that the juvenile court must send the case to adult court. If a minor commits a Class A felony, their case must be tried in adult court. An example of a Class A felony is first-degree murder.
  • Discretionary Waiver: Juvenile courts have the discretion to move a case to adult court if the alleged crime was committed when the defendant was at least 13 years old. This is a discretionary decision that can be made for a variety of alleged felony offenses.
  • Previous Transfers: If a minor had a previous case transferred to adult court, any subsequent charges or criminal proceedings will also take place in adult court.


No one wants to get the call that their minor child is in custody for a criminal offense. Unfortunately, these instances happen and this is when you need to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. The attorneys at Arnold & Smith, PLLC are here for you. We provide the best defense possible under the circumstances, whether it is an adult or minor defendant, to obtain the most favorable outcome under the circumstances. Contact us today for a consultation. If you find yourself facing criminal charges and need the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney in or around Charlotte, Lake Norman, or our new office in Monroe, please contact Arnold & Smith, PLLC today at (704) 370-2828 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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