When does questioning of a middle school student by the principal and in the presence of the school resource officer (SRO) constitute a custodial interrogation? The Court of Appeals of North Carolina issued a decision last week, In re D.A.H. ___ N.C. App. ___, 2021-NCCOA-135 (April 20, 2021), that details the legal analysis necessary to answer this question. The decision reviews the unique characteristics and law related to schoolhouse questioning and identifies seven factors most relevant to determining whether a juvenile is in custody and three factors most relevant to determining whether questioning is an interrogation. The application of this analysis to the facts of the case offers an important takeaway—the legal analysis must focus on an objective reasonable child standard and not on a particular child’s subjective familiarity with an SRO who is regularly present in the school environment. Continue reading
What comes to mind when you think about physical evidence that is also biological evidence? It might be a bloodstained shirt or the contents of a sexual assault examination kit. What about a bedspread or a laundry basket? How about a door or a phone booth? These are all items I have seen in evidence rooms across North Carolina in my work with the North Carolina Conference of Clerks of Superior Court on receiving, storing, and disposing of evidence. It is possible that each of these items meets the statutory definition of biological evidence. G.S. 15A-268 establishes that definition and provides explicit requirements around the preservation and disposal of biological evidence, including a specific inquiry into biological evidentiary value that courts must engage in each time physical evidence is offered or admitted into evidence in a criminal proceeding. 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 →
The Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (JJRA), which raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction to include youth who commit offenses at ages 16 and 17, went into effect on December 1, 2019. What impacts have been realized in the juvenile justice system as a result? The Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee (JJAC), created by the JJRA, submitted its required interim report to the General Assembly on January 15, 2021. The report provides many details about the first year of implementation as well as JJAC recommendations for legislative amendments and ongoing budgetary needs. This blog provides a summary of some of the trends during the first year of raise the age implementation as detailed in the report. Continue reading →
How does the appointment of counsel to represent juveniles with cases that are transferred to superior court for trial as adults work? This can be a confusing question to answer given that the legal authority for the appointment of counsel changes at the time of transfer, there are important immediate legal issues following transfer, and there are so many different ways in which indigent defense services are provided across North Carolina. This blog will (1) identify the law that governs appointment of counsel when cases are in juvenile court and following transfer, (2) share recently released guidance from the N.C. Office of Indigent Defense Services (IDS) regarding appointment of counsel in matters that are transferred, and (3) suggest a procedure that could be followed to ensure that the rights of juveniles regarding appeals of transfer orders and conditions of pretrial release are ensured. Continue reading →
Much of our work at the School of Government is focused on creating educational materials for professionals who work in North Carolina’s juvenile court—especially judges and attorneys. We want to share the voices of those who are affected the most – the juveniles. Professor Sara DePasquale and I are starting a video project to give voice to the experience of juveniles who have been involved in the juvenile justice and/or child welfare systems. This post provides some information on what we hope to do and how to contact us if you or someone you know is interested in participating. Continue reading →
Two changes in the law have led to a new phenomenon—the need for youth under the age of 18 to satisfy conditions of pretrial release while being confined in a juvenile detention facility. First, the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (JJRA) raised the age of juvenile court jurisdiction for offenses committed at ages 16 and 17 on or after December 1, 2019. The JJRA includes a broad mandatory transfer provision, requiring that many felony matters shift from juvenile to superior court jurisdiction. G.S. 7B-2200.5(a). When that happens, the rules of criminal procedure (including those governing pretrial release) apply rather than the rules for juvenile cases. Second, Part II of Session Law 2020-83 required that the few minors who continue to be processed as adults in the criminal system from the outset of their cases be held in juvenile detention instead of adult jails. The release of minors subject to criminal rather than juvenile jurisdiction is governed by the usual criminal process for setting and satisfying conditions for pretrial release. Those conditions sometimes require posting a bond. But juvenile detention facilities are not equipped to process bonds. So how does this work? This post will review the circumstances in which a youth confined in juvenile detention may need to post bond, the impediments to doing so, and potential ways to address those problems. Continue reading →
With the work of the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice under way, it is timely to consider the issue of racial equity in the juvenile justice system. Issues of racial and ethnic disproportionality and disparity in juvenile justice have been discussed and studied in juvenile justice systems across the country for decades, as federal juvenile justice funding for states has long been tied to their study. See the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Racial and Ethnic Disparities page for more information on the federal requirement.
North Carolina’s most recent study, Disproportionate Minority Contact in North Carolina: An Assessment Study (hereinafter “Assessment Study”), funded by the Governor’s Crime Commission and authored by Stan Orchowsky, Ph.D. of Cambiare Consulting and Michael Leiber, Ph.D., and Chae Jaynes, Ph.D., of the University of South Florida, was released in June of 2019. The findings reveal that, while there is significant local variation across counties in North Carolina, youth of color are represented throughout the juvenile justice system in far greater numbers than they are represented in the general population. These disparities are most profound at the very front door of the juvenile justice system and at the deepest end of the system in secure confinement. They are also most profound for Black youth. Continue reading →
Many people assumed that the implementation of raise the age on December 1, 2019 meant the end of confinement of anyone under 18 in a jail. That was not the case. Even under our new legal framework for juvenile jurisdiction, some youth under 18 still have cases that are handled in criminal court from the very beginning. There is currently no legal mechanism to house these youth in a juvenile detention facility instead of a jail. This changes on August 1, 2020, when Part II of Session law 2020-83 takes effect. Continue reading →
Much of the conversation at one of the first Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee meetings I attended centered on “doughnut hole” youth. The meeting participants were discussing the long pause between when raise the age legislation passed in June of 2017 until the time it would take effect in December of 2019. Many 16- and 17-year-old youth would continue to be convicted in criminal court for things that the legislature had already determined should be juvenile offenses for youth their age. Caught in between passage and implementation, these kids were in the “doughnut hole.” The legislature included a remedy for these youth, and many others, in the Second Chance Act (S562) that was ratified on June 17, 2020. Certain misdemeanor and Class H and I felony convictions for offenses committed before raise the age took effect and when the person was 16 or 17, can now be expunged. This new expunction opportunity is available to any person with an existing conviction from the age of 16 or 17 that would now fall under juvenile jurisdiction and not just the young people who were caught in the doughnut hole. Continue reading →