Were the constitutional rights of defendants who were prosecuted as adults in criminal court for offenses that they committed at ages 16 or 17, and prior to December 1, 2019, violated because the jurisdictional changes under raise the age were not retroactive? The North Carolina Court of Appeals does not think so. The decision in State v. Garrett, 2021-NCCOA-591, answers this question.
Parts I – IV of Session Law 2021-123 make changes to the statutory structure that raised the age of juvenile jurisdiction to include most offenses committed at ages 16 and 17. The most significant changes relate to new prosecutorial discretion to decline to transfer cases in which the most serious charge is a Class D – Class G felony and the ability to extend the length of jurisdiction when a juvenile is committed to a Youth Development Center (YDC) for a Class A – Class E felony committed at age 16 or 17. The raise the age changes in S.L. 2021-123 are detailed below.
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.
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.