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.
Comprehensive clinical assessments (CCA’s) are frequently completed—and sometimes required—prior to ordering a disposition in a delinquency matter. G.S. 7B-2502(a2). You can find more information about when the statutory requirement is triggered in a previous blog. CCA’s contain information about the juvenile’s mental health and they may also contain information about substance use disorder treatment. These kinds of information are covered by federal confidentiality laws that are not specifically addressed by the Juvenile Code. While the federal laws generally prohibit disclosure absent a valid patient authorization, courts can order disclosure after following the required procedure and making certain findings. The North Carolina Administrative Office of the Courts (NCAOC) recently released new and revised forms that are structured to provide the court access to CCA’s while complying with the requirements of federal confidentiality laws. This post explains why and how to use the new and revised forms.
I have had the pleasure of working here at the School of Government for eight months now. In that time I have gotten some interesting questions about North Carolina’s delinquency laws. Most often, those questions relate to the confidentiality of juvenile court records. When I first read the statute – G.S. 7B-3000 – I thought it was an open and shut case. Unless you are on the list of people allowed access without a court order, access can only be allowed pursuant to a court order. But then the questions started to come in. Who exactly is the juvenile’s attorney under this statute? Can any prosecutor access juvenile records any time? Can a federal court order disclosure of a North Carolina juvenile record? On what basis can courts order release of juvenile records? It turns out that it’s not open and shut at all. Here is what I have learned so far.
Suppose Defendant is charged with sex offense against a child. He knows that DSS previously investigated similar allegations made by the child against other people and heard that DSS found those charges to be unfounded. When Defendant subpoenas the records from DSS, the agency moves to quash. Is Defendant entitled to the records? The answer is: Sort of. On these facts, Defendant has a right to have the court do an in camera review of the records. If the court finds that they contain favorable, material evidence, it has to be turned over to the defendant. This post outlines the relevant law, which stems from a U.S. Supreme Court case called Pennsylvania v. Ritchie, 480 U.S. 39 (1987).