Session Law 2021-123 includes several significant changes to the law that governs juvenile delinquency cases. This post will describe one of those changes—an increase in the minimum age for delinquency and undisciplined cases. As I write this post, that age is set at 6 years old. G.S. 7B-1501(7)a., -1501(27)a. Beginning with offenses committed on or after December 1, 2021, the minimum age for most acts of delinquency and for all undisciplined behaviors will be 10 years old. S.L. 2021-123 § 5.(b). This change comes with limited exceptions that provide for delinquency jurisdiction for some offenses committed at ages 8 and 9, a new procedure for juvenile justice to work with children between the ages of 6 and 10 through a juvenile consultation process, and new law related to the role of parents in juvenile consultation matters. This post walks through each of these components. Continue Reading
As students across North Carolina head back to school, it is a good time to review the law that governs notifying schools about juvenile delinquency cases. Prior to raise the age, notification of charges for high school students required an understanding of the requirements under both the Juvenile Code for delinquency cases and the Criminal Code for cases in which students were accused of crimes committed at ages 16 and 17. Now, under the post-raise the age statutory structure of juvenile jurisdiction, the Juvenile Code requirements will govern nearly all school notifications.
Here are the headlines:
- school notification can only be made by a juvenile court counselor to the school principal and under the specific circumstances outlined in the Juvenile Code, and
- the information disclosed must remain confidential and may only be used by the school in the limited way allowed for by the law.
Does the court have authority over parents of juveniles who are respondents in delinquency matters once the juvenile turns 18? This question has come up repeatedly as practitioners across North Carolina continue to implement the Juvenile Jurisdiction Reinvestment Act (JJRA), the law that brought the vast majority of youth who commit offenses at ages 16 and 17 under juvenile court jurisdiction. The short answer is—yes. However, that fact does not mean that this jurisdictional law is without complications. This blog explains why the new jurisdictional laws have led to increased numbers of 18- and 19-year-olds under juvenile court jurisdiction, the court’s authority over the parents of those youth, and complications related to this jurisdictional authority over parents of people who are legally adults. Continue Reading
Children in North Carolina can be tried as respondents in delinquency proceedings for their actions beginning at age 6. The inclusion of young children in delinquency jurisdiction, some of whom may be young enough to remain staunch believers in Santa and to eagerly await a visit from the tooth fairy or the Easter bunny, raises significant legal questions in light of their developmental maturity. Those questions include:
- whether the infancy defense should play a role in delinquency proceedings?
- whether the capacity standard used in delinquency proceedings should explicitly account for developmental immaturity?
- at what point do children develop the skills necessary to function as a competent respondent?
A new Juvenile Law Bulletin, Including Young Children in Delinquency Jurisdiction: Issues of Infancy and Capacity, is now available and discusses these issues in-depth. This blog provides some highlights of the bulletin. Continue Reading
Last month I blogged about the one type of delinquency hearing for which remote proceedings are expressly authorized in statute—hearings on continued custody. This blog analyzes the legal and practical considerations for holding other types of delinquency proceedings through the use of audio and video technology. It will provide an overview of the authority to hold other delinquency proceedings remotely, discuss special considerations related to delinquency proceedings, and address what it all means for first appearances, probable cause hearings, transfer hearings, adjudication hearings, and dispositional hearings. Continue Reading
As we all come to terms with the new reality of social distancing and a global pandemic, the potential health risks for youth and staff in secure custody settings is cause for concern. Staff in a New York City juvenile detention center have already tested positive for COVID-19. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has suspended visitation and volunteer activities at all juvenile justice facilities. Currently legal visits for juveniles in secure custody are still allowed. These heightened concerns about secure confinement of youth raise questions about whether and how ongoing secure custody hearings can happen in our current environment and what alternatives exist to both preserve public safety and prevent use of the congregate juvenile detention setting as much as possible. This blog will discuss when hearings on continued secure custody must be held, even in light of the emergency directive; important considerations if those hearings are conducted remotely; and the range of release options available to the court. Continue Reading
I continue to receive questions about transferring from juvenile to criminal superior court cases involving allegations that 16-and 17-year-olds have engaged in certain criminal conduct. Recently I’ve been asked about the transfer process for offenses committed at ages 16 and 17 in cases that involve a series of charges that include Class A – G felonies, Class H and I felonies, and misdemeanors. Because the Juvenile Code prescribes differing procedures for transferring various classes of felonies and there is no transfer process for misdemeanor offenses, confusion is understandable. The key to understanding how to handle these cases is this: Once one felony is transferred, all other related charges, regardless of offense class, are automatically brought under the jurisdiction of the superior court. Why? Continue Reading
North Carolina sits four days away from implementation of the most significant change to juvenile court jurisdiction since the inception of the juvenile delinquency system 100 years ago. Beginning on December 1, 2019, most offenses alleged to have been committed by 16- and 17-year-olds will begin under juvenile jurisdiction. G.S. 7B-1501(7)b, G.S. 7B-1604(b). This change will shift the procedures that law enforcement must follow when processing 16- and 17-year-olds for these now juvenile offenses from criminal procedures to juvenile procedures. The good news, as Jeff Ledford, Chief of Police in Shelby, N.C., put it—if an officer knows how to take a 13-year-old into custody today, that officer knows how to take a 16- or 17-year-old into custody on December 1st. This blog provides three key tips for law enforcement to follow and links to a short training video and job aid developed specifically for law enforcement training on raise the age. Continue Reading
Have you ever been deeply enmeshed in a project, thought it was done, and when you returned with fresh eyes realized that you missed something important? That has happened for me when, for example, I painted the walls of my son’s bedroom only to walk in the next day with fresh eyes and realize that I should have painted the trim as well. And then it happened again as I was working on a chapter in the forthcoming Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act Implementation Guide and realized that there is an amendment contained in the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (JJRA), that will take effect on December 1, 2019, that changes one piece of the recently released Juvenile Law Bulletin, Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work?. The change limits the court’s authority to order DSS custody as a component of a delinquency disposition, allowing this disposition only for juveniles under the age of 18. This limiting language creates a clear age boundary for an initial order of disposition to DSS custody in a delinquency case. However, questions remain regarding the capacity for a juvenile to remain in DSS custody pursuant to a delinquency dispositional order after turning 18. Continue Reading
Did you know that in a juvenile delinquency court case the juvenile may be placed in the custody of a county’s child welfare department (usually a department of social services (DSS))? A DSS placement through a delinquency action may happen in one of three ways:
- a nonsecure custody order (G.S. 7B-1902 through -1907),
- a dispositional order after the juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent (G.S. 7B-2506(1)c.), and/or
- an order appointing DSS as the juvenile’s guardian of the person (G.S. 7B-2001).
With each of these types of delinquency orders, there is not an allegation, substantiation, or adjudication that the juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent (see my last blog post, here, discussing delinquency as it relates to abuse, neglect, or dependency). Instead, the juvenile’s court involvement is a result of his or her alleged acts of delinquency rather than circumstances created by a parent, guardian, custodian, or caretaker. Each of these three custody orders is a type of delinquency order and not an order related to a juvenile’s abuse, neglect, or dependency. However, at times, as a result of the order placing the juvenile in DSS custody, pieces of abuse, neglect, and dependency law apply in the delinquency case.
The legal implications of placing a juvenile into DSS custody and resulting foster care as part of a delinquency matter are complex – so complex, that a blog post will not do. Instead, my colleague, Jacquelyn (Jacqui) Greene and I wrote a new extensive juvenile law bulletin discussing these orders and the issues that arise with each type of order. You can access the bulletin, Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work? here. Continue Reading