How does a case proceed when a juvenile is charged with a homicide offense? In classic lawyer fashion, the answer is that it depends. In almost all instances, the case will begin as a juvenile matter. However, the path the case follows once the juvenile case begins, and whether the case is ultimately adjudicated as a juvenile matter or prosecuted as a criminal matter, depends on the age of the juvenile at the time of the offense and the specific offense charged.
Last month the Court of Appeals held in In re J.A.D., 2022-NCCOA-259, that the findings in an adjudication order were deficient because they did not include an affirmative statement by the court, beyond the pre-printed language on the form, that the allegations in the petition were proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Given the minimal legal requirements for delinquency adjudication orders, drafting them can sometimes feel like a largely ministerial duty. However, this appellate decision is a good reminder that adjudication orders in delinquency cases must contain certain essential findings of fact.
Session Law 2021-123 includes several significant changes to the law that governs juvenile delinquency cases. This post will describe one of those changes—an increase in the minimum age for delinquency and undisciplined cases. As I write this post, that age is set at 6 years old. G.S. 7B-1501(7)a., -1501(27)a. Beginning with offenses committed on or after December 1, 2021, the minimum age for most acts of delinquency and for all undisciplined behaviors will be 10 years old. S.L. 2021-123 § 5.(b). This change comes with limited exceptions that provide for delinquency jurisdiction for some offenses committed at ages 8 and 9, a new procedure for juvenile justice to work with children between the ages of 6 and 10 through a juvenile consultation process, and new law related to the role of parents in juvenile consultation matters. This post walks through each of these components.
As students across North Carolina head back to school, it is a good time to review the law that governs notifying schools about juvenile delinquency cases. Prior to raise the age, notification of charges for high school students required an understanding of the requirements under both the Juvenile Code for delinquency cases and the Criminal Code for cases in which students were accused of crimes committed at ages 16 and 17. Now, under the post-raise the age statutory structure of juvenile jurisdiction, the Juvenile Code requirements will govern nearly all school notifications.
Here are the headlines:
- school notification can only be made by a juvenile court counselor to the school principal and under the specific circumstances outlined in the Juvenile Code, and
- the information disclosed must remain confidential and may only be used by the school in the limited way allowed for by the law.
Does the court have authority over parents of juveniles who are respondents in delinquency matters once the juvenile turns 18? This question has come up repeatedly as practitioners across North Carolina continue to implement the Juvenile Jurisdiction Reinvestment Act (JJRA), the law that brought the vast majority of youth who commit offenses at ages 16 and 17 under juvenile court jurisdiction. The short answer is—yes. However, that fact does not mean that this jurisdictional law is without complications. This blog explains why the new jurisdictional laws have led to increased numbers of 18- and 19-year-olds under juvenile court jurisdiction, the court’s authority over the parents of those youth, and complications related to this jurisdictional authority over parents of people who are legally adults.
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.
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.
Last month I blogged about the one type of delinquency hearing for which remote proceedings are expressly authorized in statute—hearings on continued custody. This blog analyzes the legal and practical considerations for holding other types of delinquency proceedings through the use of audio and video technology. It will provide an overview of the authority to hold other delinquency proceedings remotely, discuss special considerations related to delinquency proceedings, and address what it all means for first appearances, probable cause hearings, transfer hearings, adjudication hearings, and dispositional hearings.
As we all come to terms with the new reality of social distancing and a global pandemic, the potential health risks for youth and staff in secure custody settings is cause for concern. Staff in a New York City juvenile detention center have already tested positive for COVID-19. The North Carolina Department of Public Safety has suspended visitation and volunteer activities at all juvenile justice facilities. Currently legal visits for juveniles in secure custody are still allowed. These heightened concerns about secure confinement of youth raise questions about whether and how ongoing secure custody hearings can happen in our current environment and what alternatives exist to both preserve public safety and prevent use of the congregate juvenile detention setting as much as possible. This blog will discuss when hearings on continued secure custody must be held, even in light of the emergency directive; important considerations if those hearings are conducted remotely; and the range of release options available to the court.
North Carolina sits four days away from implementation of the most significant change to juvenile court jurisdiction since the inception of the juvenile delinquency system 100 years ago. Beginning on December 1, 2019, most offenses alleged to have been committed by 16- and 17-year-olds will begin under juvenile jurisdiction. G.S. 7B-1501(7)b, G.S. 7B-1604(b). This change will shift the procedures that law enforcement must follow when processing 16- and 17-year-olds for these now juvenile offenses from criminal procedures to juvenile procedures. The good news, as Jeff Ledford, Chief of Police in Shelby, N.C., put it—if an officer knows how to take a 13-year-old into custody today, that officer knows how to take a 16- or 17-year-old into custody on December 1st. This blog provides three key tips for law enforcement to follow and links to a short training video and job aid developed specifically for law enforcement training on raise the age.