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Rodney Robbins has been advocating for a "Raise the Age" Proposal for years. (Photo: Hannah Patrick/WWAY)

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — After years of advocating, parents and law enforcement may finally get the change they have been asking for in the justice system.

Bipartisan legislation announced yesterday would end the automatic adult prosecution of 16 and 17-year-olds in North Carolina.

“Life is not black and white,” Wilmington resident Rodney Robbins said. “It’s not conservative or liberal. It’s generally grey.”

For 22 years, Rodney Robbins has been advocating for that grey area, because of his son Justin.

“He was a teenager, 16, 17-years-old, and he essentially broke the law,” Robbins said. “It was some vandalism.”

Because of a law that is only in North Carolina and New York, Justin was prosecuted as an adult.

“My son has some developmental disabilities, which make it hard for him to find employment under the best of circumstances, but with this extra mark, it continues to haunt him,” Robbins said.

For the last 22 years, Robbins has gone to lawmakers, attended public meetings, and written blogs.

“My son is kind of immune to it,” Robbins said. “You know, he’s kind of resigned in the fact that he’ll have this forever, and I tell him, ‘No. We’re not going to give up.'”

It is a law District Attorney Ben David has also spent years trying to get changed.

“I think one reason that it’s taken this long is adequate funding,” David said.

After years of failed bills, years of fighting, there is a glimpse of hope.

“What I admire the chief justice for is he’s gone straight to the legislature and said here’s what it’s going to take,” David said.

While David said this new proposal has a good chance of passing, there are certain things that will never change.

“We are going to continue to hold people fully accountable for violent crimes, things like sex offenses and murder, and unfortunately very young people commit those crimes,” David said.

While this proposal may never change anything for the Robbins family, the change in law is what he has been fighting for.

“You know it might not affect my son, but it’ll affect someone else’s son,” Robbins said.

David said the chief justice’s proposal has this law going into effect in 2019, so that funding can be figured out before then. Lawmakers still have to vote on the proposal.

Comment on this Story

  • Marciamallow.

    I agree 100% that a stupid mistake as a young person should not hold you back forever. There are very few young people who have not done something illegal. Those with money, connections, and are not a minority receive lesser punishments. It can make a huge difference where you are from. I am not talking about the few huge crimes that should be treated differently. We can’t just keep throwing our young people away. My husband was a young man who was told by a judge you should enlist before you get into big trouble. He served in Vietnam, decided there are worse things than getting an education, and went to school on the GI Bill. He is now retired from being a Doctor.

  • guest45

    I have 2 thoughts on this
    1- children make silly mistakes, you do not want a childish mistake to follow them and destroy any chance of having a decent life in the future and getting a productive job
    2- if a child does a violent crime then you treat him as an adult, rape, murder, breaking and entering, these are violent crimes,

    • Heimie Schmelter

      “Mistakes” consist of tripping on stairs with your hands in your pockets, handing a clerk a twenty when you think it’s a five or being late for work because you looked at your watch wrong.
      “Poor judgement” aren’t mistakes. DWI’s, theft, identity theft, drug trafficking, etc. aren’t mistakes at all. Children DO tend to make very poor judgments at times and adults do as well.
      You murder you mother at 14? Sorry, you should never mingle in society again!

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