With the passage of “Raise the Age” legislation this year, juvenile justice officials, the court system, law enforcement agencies, and various other state officials are busy planning and preparing for the implementation of this major policy change which will become effective December 1, 2019 (see this prior blog post). One of the issues raised by juvenile court counselors is whether their authority to approve juvenile petitions will be impacted by the mandatory transfer to adult court of 16 and 17-year-olds who commit Class A-G felonies. The short answer is no. Here’s why.Continue Reading
Incapacity to Proceed and Juveniles
Two days ago, Franklin County prosecutors dismissed a murder charge against an 18-year-old male who allegedly admitted to decapitating his mother because “he felt like it.” The case made national headlines back in March when it was reported that the teen emerged from the home holding a butcher knife in one hand and his mother’s head in the other when officers arrived on the scene. According to this article, the trial court recently found that the teen lacked capacity to proceed after he was examined by mental health professionals at Central Regional Hospital in Butner. This post discusses what it means for a juvenile to lack capacity to proceed and why it not only bars a criminal prosecution, but also, prohibits delinquency proceedings against a juvenile.
Ordering Restitution In A Juvenile Delinquency Case
A district court judge may require a juvenile to pay restitution to a victim as part of the juvenile’s disposition. The court’s authority to order restitution depends on the juvenile’s disposition level and whether the amount of restitution is supported by evidence in the record. The restitution order also must be supported by sufficient findings of fact. This post outlines the required findings and other rules that apply to juvenile restitution orders.
Extended YDC Commitments and the 30-Day Notice Requirement
Beginning at age 10, juveniles may be committed to the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice for placement in a youth development center (YDC), a locked residential facility that “provide[s] long-term treatment, education, and rehabilitative services” to delinquent youth. G.S. 7B-1501(29). When a district court judge commits a juvenile to a YDC, the judge must determine the maximum period of time the juvenile may remain committed before the Division must either release the juvenile or provide notice under G.S. 7B-2515 of its decision to extend the juvenile’s commitment to continue rehabilitative efforts. This post explains how to determine a juvenile’s maximum commitment period and the requirements for extending the commitment beyond this period.
Due Process Rights and Children: Fifty Years of In re Gault – Part Five, the Privilege Against Self-Incrimination
Juvenile defenders, the court system, the governor, and other advocates recently celebrated a historic moment in juvenile justice. Monday was the 50th Anniversary of the In re Gault decision, which guaranteed juveniles the right to due process in delinquency proceedings. In honor of the event, this multiple part series on due process has explored the history of Gault and how it transformed juvenile court by ensuring that juveniles have the right to notice, the right to counsel, and the right to confrontation and cross-examination. This final post discusses the Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination and the protection it provides to juveniles, assuming they understand what it means and know how to assert it.Continue Reading
N.C. Court of Appeals: Disposition Orders Do Not Require Written Findings on the G.S. 7B-2501(c) Factors
In multiple cases, the Court of Appeals has found reversible error when a trial court has entered a disposition in a delinquency case without including written findings on the factors set out in G.S. 7B-2501(c). The number and frequency of reversals on this ground has even caused the State to concede error on appeal. See, e.g., In re V.M., 211 N.C. App. 389, 391 (2011). Yesterday, the court surprisingly changed course in a published decision, In re D.E.P., __ N.C. App. __ (Feb. 7, 2017), which held that the Juvenile Code does not require the trial court to “make findings of fact that expressly track each of the statutory factors listed in [G.S.] 7B-2501(c).” The decision raises some obvious questions. Can one panel of the Court of Appeals overrule another on the same issue? And, how will future cases be impacted? Continue Reading
Due Process Rights and Children: Fifty Years of In re Gault – Part Four, the Right to Confrontation
The Confrontation Clause of the Sixth Amendment provides that “[i]n all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right . . . to be confronted with the witnesses against him.” U.S. Const. amend. VI. This protection applies to state court criminal actions by virtue of the Fourteenth Amendment. It also applies to juvenile proceedings because of In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967). Simply put, the right to confrontation allows juveniles to face their accusers in court and dispute their testimony through cross-examination. It allows juveniles to challenge the state’s evidence and protects them from the improper admission of certain testimonial hearsay under Crawford. This post explains a juvenile’s right to confront and cross examine witnesses and how far it extends in juvenile court.
Due Process Rights and Children: Fifty Years of In re Gault – Part Three, the Right to Notice
The right to receive “notice” of a criminal charge or other alleged misconduct is considered to be one of the core requirements of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Although due process requirements vary depending on the circumstances, at a minimum, a person is entitled to notice and an opportunity to be heard before suffering a loss of life, liberty, or property by the government. In re D.B., 186 N.C. App. 556, 564 (2007). This basic protection was not afforded to juveniles prior to In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), which extended due process rights to children. Why is notice so important? When must notice be given? How much notice is required? These questions and others are answered in this third post in a series about Gault’s role in protecting the rights of juveniles in delinquency proceedings over the past fifty years.
The Magistrate’s Role in Filing Juvenile Delinquency and Undisciplined Petitions
Magistrates have limited authority to file juvenile petitions and enter custody orders related to delinquent and undisciplined juveniles. Specifically, a magistrate may “draw and verify the petition and accept it for filing,” in “emergency situations” when the clerk’s office is closed and “a petition is required in order to obtain a secure or nonsecure custody order.” G.S. 7B-1804. Recently, I was invited to discuss this statutory provision with magistrates at their annual fall conference. I had assumed that most magistrates rarely, if ever, file juvenile delinquency or undisciplined petitions and expected to finish the presentation early with few questions. To my surprise, I discovered that magistrates in some counties are routinely being asked to file after hours juvenile petitions and enter secure custody orders, and they had lots of questions. Since I ran out of time trying to answer them all, I decided to write this blog post.
Due Process Rights and Children: Fifty Years of In re Gault – Part Two, the Right to Counsel
This post is the second in a series focused on In re Gault, the U.S. Supreme Court case which mandated that the core due process rights applicable to adults in criminal proceedings must also be afforded to juveniles who are alleged to be delinquent. Perhaps the most significant of these rights is the right to counsel.
The Supreme Court strongly condemned the denial of counsel to children in a proceeding which carries “the awesome prospect of incarceration” until the age of majority. 387 U.S. 1, 36. In such proceedings, a juvenile needs legal representation “to cope with problems of law, to make skilled inquiry into the facts, to insist upon regularity of the proceedings, and to ascertain whether he has a defense and to prepare and submit it.” Id. Thus, in delinquency hearings “which may result in commitment to an institution in which the juvenile’s freedom is curtailed,” the child and his or her parents must be notified of the child’s right to counsel, or if they cannot afford counsel, that counsel will be appointed. Id. The NC Juvenile Code codified and expanded the right to counsel in G.S. 7B-2000 by requiring the appointment of counsel for all juveniles who are alleged to be delinquent without the need to show indigency. Despite this progress, advocates still question whether the right to counsel for juveniles extends far enough. Continue Reading