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.
The Juvenile Code requires the court to select the most appropriate disposition for the delinquent juvenile. G.S. 7B-2501(c). Under this statute, the disposition must be designed to protect the public and to meet the needs and best interests of the juvenile based on offense severity, the need for accountability, the importance of protecting public safety, the juvenile’s degree of culpability, and the rehabilitative and treatment needs of the juvenile. There are many different statutory pathways available to the court to structure individualized dispositions targeted to meet the needs of the juvenile and reduce their risk of reoffending. This post explores some of those options, with an emphasis on alternatives outside of standard terms and conditions for probation or placement in out-of-home settings.
My colleague, Sara DePasquale, and I were excited to release a new Juvenile Law Bulletin two weeks ago—Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work? We were also exhausted. While the laws that allow for courts to order juveniles into DSS custody in a delinquency proceeding are short, their implications are broad and complex. Sara’s blog announcing the bulletin, Extra! Extra! Read All About It! New Juvenile Law Bulletin – Delinquency and DSS Custody without Abuse, Neglect, or Dependency: How Does that Work?, provides some suggestions about reading the bulletin in bite-sized chunks. Now that readers have had a chance to do that, let’s focus on a few of the key points for delinquency practitioners.
- the proceeding remains a delinquency proceeding although the juvenile is in the custody of DSS;
- the only attorney who will represent a juvenile placed in DSS custody through a delinquency proceeding is the juvenile’s counsel in the delinquency matter;
- termination of probation does not automatically terminate DSS custody; and
- implementation of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (a.k.a. “raise the age”) could result in a new challenge for DSS placements.
Last week the Court of Appeals breathed new life into a decades-old law that requires district courts to refer juveniles who have been adjudicated delinquent, prior to disposition, to the area mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services director for an interdisciplinary evaluation if any evidence that the juvenile is mentally ill has been presented. This new decision, In the Matter of E.M., __ N.C.App. __ (January 15, 2019), raises many questions like, does it really mean any evidence of mental illness? And does it matter if the juvenile has already received mental health services? And who is the area mental health, developmental disabilities, and substance abuse services director anyways?