According to recently released state statistics, North Carolina’s juvenile crime rate has dropped 11 percent since 2008. Critics wonder if the rate might not drop even lower if 16- and 17-year-olds were no longer prosecuted as adults.

North Carolina is one of only two states to process 16- and 17-year-olds in the adult criminal justice system. While that approach might appear on its surface to be tough on crime, there’s hard evidence that kids who go through a juvenile justice system are less likely to re-offend than teens who enter the adult system.

High Rates of Reoffending

The Charlotte News & Observer reports that in 2007, the North Carolina Sentencing Commission disclosed that 16- and 17-year-old offenders had a higher rate of recidivism than the entire sample of offenders aged 13 to 21. In addition, the commission found that youths who serve time in an adult facility are more than twice as likely to re-offend as those who are punished in the juvenile system, receive treatment or get rehabilitative services.

Research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that youthful offenders who go through the adult criminal justice system are also more likely to be arrested again, convicted again, and have their probation revoked than adult offenders.

Obviously, all of these outcomes are undesirable. They’re bad for juveniles and they decrease rather than increase public safety while adding costs to taxpayers.

Problems With the Adult System

The adult criminal justice system is designed to process adults, not youths. The adult system simply doesn’t do enough to counsel and rehabilitate young people who break the law.

In a juvenile system, kids are pushed back to school and toward people who can help them turn their lives around: parents, educators, mental health professionals, and substance abuse experts, among others.

Because their crimes tend to be minor, three-quarters of 16- and 17-year-olds get probation when they go through the adult system. In the juvenile system, they get more of a hands-on approach that requires restitution, school attendance, court-ordered services, and, when appropriate, treatment for substance abuse problems and mental health issues.

Many argue that it’s past time for North Carolina to treat juveniles as juveniles: help order their lives and turn them around before it’s too late.

If your child faces criminal charges and adult punishment, contact a North Carolina criminal defense attorney who understands both the law and the steps needed to help teens get back on track. A criminal defense lawyer helps protect your family’s rights.

State v. B.S.: Not Guilty Verdict in First Degree Murder Case.

In this case, our client was charged with First Degree Murder in connection with a “drive-by” shooting that occurred in Charlotte, NC. The State’s evidence included GPS ankle monitoring data linking our client was at the scene of the crime and evidence that our client confessed to an inmate while in jail. Nonetheless, we convinced a jury to unanimously find our client Not Guilty. He was released from jail the same day.

State v. S.G.: First Degree Murder Charge Dismissed.

Our client was charged with First Degree for the shooting death related to alleged breaking and entering. The State’s evidence included a co-defendant alleging that our client was the shooter. After conducting a thorough investigation with the use of a private investigator, we persuaded the State to dismiss entirely the case against our client.

State v. B.D.: First Degree Murder Charged Dismissed.

After conducting an investigation and communicating with the prosecutor about the facts and circumstances indicating that our client acted in self-defense, the case was dismissed and deemed a justifiable homicide.

State v. I.R.: Reduction from First Degree Murder to Involuntary Manslaughter and Concealment of Death.

Our client was charged with the First Degree Murder of a young lady by drug overdose. After investigating the decedent’s background and hiring a preeminent expert toxicologist to fight the State’s theory of death, we were able to negotiate this case down from Life in prison to 5 years in prison, with credit for time served.

State v. J.G.:

Our client was charged with First Degree Murder related to a “drug deal gone bad.” After engaging the services of a private investigator and noting issues with the State’s case, we were able to negotiate a plea for our client that avoided a Life sentence and required him to serve only 12 years.