• Determining Eligibility for Return of Guns

    This post was written by my SOG colleague Phil Dixon. You can reach Phil at dixon@sog.unc.edu

    Lately I have received a number of questions relating to whether it is appropriate to return guns following a temporary firearms disqualification. The issue seems to arise most commonly when a domestic violence restraining order (“DVPO”) is issued under Chapter 50B of the North Carolina General Statutes, which requires the surrender of guns by a defendant in certain circumstances and allows the defendant to seek return of the guns following the expiration of the order and final disposition of any related criminal charges. See G.S. 50B-3.1.

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  • Juveniles and Firearms: Recent Data Trends

    The 2022 Annual Report from the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force (CFTF) highlights a significant increase in firearm-related deaths among North Carolina’s youth. The CFTF Annual Report, submitted in May of 2022, details child fatalities that occurred in North Carolina in 2020. According to the CFTF, rates for suicides, homicides, and firearm deaths for children in North Carolina all increased in 2020. CFTF Annual Report, p. 2. Firearms were used in 12 of the 20 suicides reported among youth ages 10 – 14 and in 19 of the 35 suicides reported among youth ages 15 – 17. All 11 of the homicides reported against youth ages 10 – 14 involved a firearm and 48 of the 50 homicides reported against youth ages 15 – 17 involved a firearm. Table 1, CFTF Annual Report. Suicide was the leading cause of death among youth ages 10 – 14 and homicide was the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 – 17. Table 2, CFTF Annual Report.

    These numbers reflect an increasing trend of firearm-related deaths among youth. While there were 525 firearm-related youth deaths between 2011 and 2020, 105 firearm-related youth deaths were recorded in 2020 alone. CFTF Annual Report, p. 18.

    Is this trend rooted in more violent firearm usage by youth? The suicide data clearly reflects youth use of firearms to kill themselves. Do the homicide numbers reflect youth shooting other youth? Data from the Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP) may shed some light on that question. Continue Reading

  • A Guide to Relinquishments and Post-Relinquishment Review Hearings

    In the last two years, I’ve started to receive more questions about the relinquishment of a child to a child-placing agency for adoption. The questions focus on procedure. There are specific statutory procedures that must be followed. When those procedures are not followed, the rights of everyone involved are impacted. Continue Reading

  • Abatement, also known as the prior pending action doctrine, does not apply when the prior action is pending in another state

    If wife filed a complaint requesting child support, alimony, and property distribution in Watauga County and a few weeks later, while wife’s claims remained pending in Watauga County, husband filed a complaint requesting property distribution in Hyde County, the common law doctrine of abatement would allow wife to ask the court in Hyde County to dismiss husband’s complaint. Abatement, also called the prior pending action doctrine, provides that:

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  • Adult Protection MDTs: New Project Underway (and Help Needed!)


    Over the last several years, the School of Government has developed new and exciting resources to support local multidisciplinary teams (MDTs) involved with protecting adults from abuse, neglect, and exploitation. An MDT is a group of professionals in a geographic region who commit to working together toward a common goal. An adult protection MDT may include, for example, social workers, law enforcement officials, prosecutors, legal services attorneys, guardians or guardians ad litem, representatives from community nonprofits, financial institutions, and area agencies on aging.

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  • Legally Permissible Uses of Juvenile Detention

    One of the many unique features of the juvenile justice system is the law related to the permissible uses of detention. Called secure custody in the Juvenile Code, placement of a juvenile in detention is permitted only when specifically authorized by statute. This post reviews the legally allowable circumstances for the use of juvenile detention. If the situation of a particular juvenile does not match any of these circumstances, then the juvenile cannot be ordered to be held in a detention facility. Note that detention applies only to juveniles who are the subject of delinquency or undisciplined proceedings and is never permitted in an abuse, neglect, or dependency action. Continue Reading

  • COVID and the Due Process Rights of Incarcerated Parents


    The ramifications of the COVID-19 pandemic on prisons and the court system have been wide-reaching. We are still seeing, and will likely continue to see, the tentacles of these issues stretch into cases for years to come. The North Carolina Supreme Court recently issued a decision tackling one such issue: whether a parent who was unable to attend a termination of parental rights hearing because he was incarcerated during a pandemic-related prison lockdown was entitled to a continuance so he could be present for the hearing. In re C.A.B., 2022-NCSC-51, ¶ 1.

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  • Foster Care and Family Time – What about the Pets

    Meet Austria. She’s one of the loves of my life. We’ve been together for more than 10 ½ years. She has been a witness to my life during that time – loving me unconditionally, making me laugh daily, going on multiple daily walks as part of my own self-care, sleeping with me when I’m sick, comforting me when times are hard, vacationing with me (I’ve driven the I-95 corridor from Miami to Portland, Maine more times than I can count so she is with me during family visits), helping me transition to North Carolina, meeting friends, sharing bags of Doritos (my weakness when writing or driving), watching me leave and waiting for me to get home in her princess and the pea pile of dog beds in front of the window, and so much more. She is a joy. She is a dog of a lifetime. She is my family.

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  • Beyond a Reasonable Doubt: Findings Required in Delinquency Adjudication Orders


    Last month the Court of Appeals held in In re J.A.D., 2022-NCCOA-259, that the findings in an adjudication order were deficient because they did not include an affirmative statement by the court, beyond the pre-printed language on the form, that the allegations in the petition were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Given the minimal legal requirements for delinquency adjudication orders, drafting them can sometimes feel like a largely ministerial duty. However, this appellate decision is a good reminder that adjudication orders in delinquency cases must contain certain essential findings of fact.

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  • Alimony:  the court can order security for the future payment of an award but probably not by life insurance

    As with child support, spousal support orders are most often enforced by contempt after a supporting spouse has failed to comply with the order. G.S. 50-16.7(j)(postseparation support and alimony are enforceable by civil and criminal contempt). However, G.S. 50-16.7 sets out other mechanisms that can be used as an alternative or in conjunction with contempt to enforce support orders when an obligor fails to pay. That statute also sets out several mechanisms for securing the future payment of an alimony award at the time the court orders that support be paid. Several of those mechanisms are authorized by G.S. 50-16.7(b), which states broadly that

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