The Juvenile Code requires the court to select the most appropriate disposition for the delinquent juvenile. G.S. 7B-2501(c). Under this statute, the disposition must be designed to protect the public and to meet the needs and best interests of the juvenile based on offense severity, the need for accountability, the importance of protecting public safety, the juvenile’s degree of culpability, and the rehabilitative and treatment needs of the juvenile. There are many different statutory pathways available to the court to structure individualized dispositions targeted to meet the needs of the juvenile and reduce their risk of reoffending. This post explores some of those options, with an emphasis on alternatives outside of standard terms and conditions for probation or placement in out-of-home settings. Continue Reading
Using DSS Custody in Delinquency Cases – Key Takeaways
My colleague, Sara DePasquale, and I were excited to release a new Juvenile Law Bulletin two weeks ago—Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work? We were also exhausted. While the laws that allow for courts to order juveniles into DSS custody in a delinquency proceeding are short, their implications are broad and complex. Sara’s blog announcing the bulletin, Extra! Extra! Read All About It! New Juvenile Law Bulletin – Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work?, provides some suggestions about reading the bulletin in bite-sized chunks. Now that readers have had a chance to do that, let’s focus on a few of the key points for delinquency practitioners.
- the proceeding remains a delinquency proceeding although the juvenile is in the custody of DSS;
- the only attorney who will represent a juvenile placed in DSS custody through a delinquency proceeding is the juvenile’s counsel in the delinquency matter;
- termination of probation does not automatically terminate DSS custody; and
- implementation of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. “raise the age”) could result in a new challenge for DSS placements.
Extra! Extra! Read All About It! New Juvenile Law Bulletin – Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work?
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
When Does Delinquency Result in Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency?
A juvenile may be involved with both the juvenile justice and child welfare systems. These youth are sometimes referred to as “dual jurisdiction” or “crossover youth.” Two of the ways a juvenile in North Carolina may be involved with both systems is when the juvenile is the subject of a delinquency action, and
- in that action, the court orders the juvenile placed in DSS custody or guardianship (G.S. 7B-1902‒1907; -2506(1)c.; -2001); and/or
- there is also cause to suspect that the juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent, which if substantiated by a county child welfare agency (hereinafter “DSS”) may result in a separate abuse, neglect, or dependency action that the juvenile is the subject of.
Both of these ways applied to one of the very few appellate opinions that address these dual jurisdiction youth: In re K.G., 817 S.E.2d 790 (2018). In that case, K.G. was adjudicated delinquent and placed in DSS custody through an order entered in the delinquency action. DSS then initiated a separate dependency action, which was based largely on the juvenile’s conduct and refusal to live with his parents. In that new action, K.G. was adjudicated dependent. That adjudication was appealed and reversed by the court of appeals, which held the petition failed to allege dependency and stated the juvenile’s willful acts do not determine a parent’s ability to care for their child.
So, when does delinquency result in abuse, neglect, or dependency? Continue Reading
Mental Health Evaluations Required Prior to Delinquency Dispositions
Last week the Court of Appeals breathed new life into a decades-old law that requires district courts to refer juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent, prior to disposition, to the area mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services director for an interdisciplinary evaluation if any evidence that the juvenile is mentally ill has been presented. This new decision, In the Matter of E.M., __ N.C.App. __ (January 15, 2019), raises many questions like, does it really mean any evidence of mental illness? And does it matter if the juvenile has already received mental health services? And who is the area mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services director anyways? Continue Reading
Getting Beyond the Checkboxes: Delinquency Dispositional Orders
Dispositional decision making in delinquency cases can be complex. A list of 24 dispositional alternatives are available pursuant to G.S. 7B-2506. The choice among them must be driven by the disposition level allowed by G.S. 7B-2508 and the five factors outlined in G.S. 7B-2501(c). How much information must a court consider in making this decision and what findings need to be in an order of disposition? That question was not clearly answered until May of 2018. Continue Reading
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.
More Thoughts on Improper Delegation of Authority and Intermittent Confinement
Over the past four months, I’ve had the opportunity to discuss the new juvenile delinquency legislation, S.L. 2015-58, with juvenile court officials from every part of the system – prosecutors, defenders, judges, and most recently, juvenile court counselors. While each group had distinct questions and concerns, one particular issue universally generated the most discussion. That issue was intermittent confinement (short periods of confinement in juvenile detention) or “IC days” and how the amendments to G.S. 7B-2506(12) and (20) change the way it is “imposed.” The amended statutes mandate that only judges may determine the imposition of IC days, whereas previously, judges were only required to determine the timing of the confinement. In a recent post, I explained that this change was designed to prevent judges from improperly delegating their authority to court counselors by suspending IC days and ordering court counselors to impose them immediately upon the juvenile’s noncompliance with certain conditions. This practice will soon be prohibited (as of December 1, 2015), since the new law clarifies that only the court may impose the confinement. However, the lack of specific guidelines has left judges and court counselors wondering what they must do to comply with the statute. Here are some additional thoughts about how I think this legislation will impact the court.Continue Reading
Improper Delegation of Authority and Intermittent Confinement
Last month, I wrote a blog post about the recently enacted Juvenile Code Reform legislation (S.L. 2015-58, HB 879), which creates several new laws affecting delinquent juveniles. The last section of the bill amends G.S. 7B-2506(12) and (20), which authorize intermittent confinement in a juvenile detention facility as a Level 1 or Level 2 dispositional alternative. Currently, the trial court must determine the timing of the intermittent confinement, but beginning December 1, 2015, it must also determine the imposition of the confinement. Although this change appears to be minor, it addresses a major issue related to juvenile dispositions – the improper delegation of the trial court’s authority, typically, to court counselors. Most of the calls I get about improper delegation of authority in juvenile court concern intermittent confinement, and particularly, how it is imposed. This post will examine how the new legislation was designed to address these concerns by changing the way district court judges impose intermittent confinement.