Session Law 2023-114 includes many provisions that change the law governing delinquency cases. This is the first in a three-part series of blogs detailing those changes. It covers the changes to the laws that govern transfer of cases to superior court for trial as an adult and the mandate to assess mental health needs before disposition through the comprehensive clinical assessment (CCA) and care review processes. All of the S.L. 2023-114 changes described in this blog will apply to offenses committed on or after December 1, 2023.
One of the more common questions I receive about the transfer of a case from juvenile jurisdiction to the jurisdiction of the superior court for trial as an adult is whether transfer can be ordered based on consent of the juvenile. The issue seems to cross my desk when a juvenile has some charges pending in criminal court and there are unrelated felony charges pending under juvenile jurisdiction. The short answer is no. The statutory structure that governs transfer does not allow for ordering transfer based on consent. Why?
Delinquency adjudications and criminal convictions of minors who have been transferred to Superior Court for trial as adults both require that the elements of the offense charged are proved beyond a reasonable doubt, including that the required criminal state of mind, or mens rea, existed. The adolescent mind has been the subject of substantial scientific research. This research grounded several United State Supreme Court decisions related to criminal punishment of minors and when Miranda warnings are necessary. However, the question of how the science of adolescent brain development does or does not connect to the mens rea requirements of various offenses is not well litigated. The North Carolina Court of Appeals dipped a toe in this area in its recent ruling in State v. Smith, __ N.C. App. __ (June 6, 2023).
The investigation of offenses subject to juvenile jurisdiction requires an understanding of how the law regarding juvenile investigations varies from the law that governs criminal investigations. I am happy to share Juvenile Law Related to the Investigation of Delinquent Acts, a new Juvenile Law Bulletin that details laws unique to juvenile investigations. This blog provides some highlights from the search and seizure section of the Bulletin.
The current news seems to be full of reports of threats against schools. A search of the WRAL website for stories on school threats reveals at least five discrete stories on threats against North Carolina schools in May alone. How can schools and law enforcement be prepared to respond to, and perhaps even prevent, threats against student safety? The National Threat Assessment Center of the United States Secret Service (NTAC) has been researching that topic for over 20 years. The results are consistent. Schools that have an effective threat assessment structure in place, casting a wide net to effectively identify youth along a continuum of need and offering a range of responses, are best positioned to address threats and prevent school violence.
Determination of the correct disposition level available in a delinquency case requires a four-step process.
- Identify the offense for which disposition is being entered (hereinafter referred to as the “disposition offense”).
- Identify the offense classification for the disposition offense.
- Calculate the juvenile’s delinquency history level.
- Use the disposition chart to identify the corresponding level or levels for the case.
The short answer is no. There is no specific legal requirement to enter a disposition in a delinquency matter in a certain period of time. At the same time, the law does provide some context on moving efficiently to disposition, including the ability, in certain circumstances, to appeal an adjudication before a disposition has been entered. This blog explains that context.
What law applies when a juvenile is suspected of impaired driving? If the juvenile is 16- or 17-years-old, the criminal law applies in the same way that it applies to someone aged 18 or older. These offenses are carved out of juvenile jurisdiction (G.S. 7B-1501(7)b.) They are therefore criminal matters from their inception. However, if the juvenile is under age 16 at the time of the offense, the case is a juvenile matter from its inception. This blog explains how cases alleging impaired driving under the age of 16 should proceed pursuant to the Juvenile Code.
The law that governs the use of nontestimonial identification procedures in delinquency matters is markedly different than the law that governs use of these same procedures in criminal matters. The Juvenile Code requires a court order prior to the use of most nontestimonial identification procedures, a nontestimonial identification order (NTO) can only be issued in relation to felony charges, there are specific statutes that govern the destruction of resulting records, and the willful violation of the juvenile NTO statutes carries a criminal penalty. This post describes when NTOs are needed, and the procedure that must be followed to obtain them, in matters under juvenile jurisdiction.
One of the unique features of the juvenile justice system is its statutory focus on identifying the needs of juveniles and resolving matters to provide “appropriate rehabilitative services to juveniles.” G.S. 7B-1500(2)b. In addition to protecting public safety, dispositions should include “an appropriate plan to meet the needs of the juvenile.” G.S. 7B-2500. The caselaw and statutes that govern one form of assessment in delinquency cases—the comprehensive clinical assessment (CCA)—have undergone rapid change in the last few years. Other assessments, such as assessment for problematic sexual behavior or trauma-focused assessments, may also be needed in certain cases. Questions abound regarding when assessments can occur and what confidentiality law applies to them. This new infographic provides a high-level overview of the law that addresses these questions.