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.
Under G.S. 7B-1703(b), a juvenile court counselor (JCC) has “15 days after the complaint is received” to file the complaint as a juvenile petition, or a maximum of 30 days, if the chief court counselor has granted a 15-day extension. I’m often asked whether an untimely filed petition must be dismissed; and if so, whether the State is precluded from filing another petition for the same offense. There are two published appellate cases addressing these issues; In re D.S., 364 N.C. 184 (2010), and In re J.A.G., 206 N.C. App. 318 (2010). Here’s what they say.
Many juvenile cases are resolved through admissions (known as guilty pleas in criminal court), often with the prosecutor’s agreement to reduce the charge. Sometimes, the reduced charge is a lesser-included offense of the original offense charged in the petition, such as changing common law robbery to misdemeanor larceny. See State v. White, 142 N.C. App. 201, 204 (2001). But, often, a reduced charge is not a lesser-included offense, like changing sexual battery to simple assault. See State v. Corbett, 196 N.C. App. 508, 511 (2009). The question then becomes: How can the State proceed on a different offense than the one charged in the petition? Can the prosecutor prepare a misdemeanor statement of charges as in criminal court? Or, is a new petition required? Here are the answers.