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N.C. Opinions: Fayetteville

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Raise age to 18 for adult prosecution

From an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer on Wednesday:

Is a 16-year-old a child or an adult? If you’ve had one living in your home, you know the answer: Both of the above.

Being 16 or 17 is to have feet in both worlds. But the brain of a youngster will often be the one driving impulsive decisions that end badly.

This is why most states’ justice systems treat 16- or 17-year-old offenders as juveniles. For most teenagers, the first offense is the only one, and the trip through the courts is a lifetime lesson.

That’s the thinking behind a bill that would raise the age for adult prosecution to 18, for misdemeanors. Now, there are plenty of young thugs out there who should be tried as adults – the gun-toting gang members who shoot to kill, for example. And they still would be considered adults in our justice system. Only those who commit misdemeanors at 16 or 17 would be sent through the juvenile courts. Felony would remain an adult-level crime.

The bill got hung up and never made it out of the N.C. House last year. This week, lawmakers are considering it again. We hope they pass it. Most kids who make a mistake deserve a break and will gain nothing good from exposure to adult criminals. Let’s help them succeed in life.

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