In North Carolina a juvenile is someone under the age of 18 who is not married, emancipated, or in the military; but, for juvenile court, not all cases fit neatly into that definition.

In the civil context of juvenile court, matters involving child welfare are heard, including abuse, neglect, dependency and adoption. The court hearing these cases has jurisdiction over a juvenile until their 18th birthday.

In the “criminal” context (though not considered criminal cases), it gets a little more complicated. In this court, cases are heard involving delinquent juveniles (cases where the act would be considered a crime if carried out by an adult) and undisciplined juveniles (like runaways). Before December 1, 2019, when North Carolina’s “Raise The Age” law went into effect, anyone 16 years or older charged with a criminal offense was treated as an adult and their case was handled in adult court. Under the new law, juvenile court has jurisdiction over someone alleged to have committed a criminal act from age 6 up until their 18th birthday. There are some exceptions, though. For instance, 16 and 17 year olds charged with traffic offenses and violent felonies will still go directly to adult court. Other felonies, although they may begin in juvenile court, may get transferred to adult court. Once under the jurisdiction of juvenile court in this context, the court may retain jurisdiction at times until 20 years of age, while supervising the juvenile under probation or support services.