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Statutory Changes Related to Juvenile Interrogation and Secure Custody Orders

This post covers recent statutory changes related to the custodial interrogation of youth who are 16 and 17 years of age and to the issuance and execution of secure custody orders in delinquency cases. All of these changes are contained in Session law 2023-114 and will apply to offenses committed on or after December 1, 2023.

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Juvenile Code Does Not Authorize Transfer Based on Consent

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?

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The Adolescent Brain and Mens Rea

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).

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Juveniles and the Law of Impaired Driving

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.

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Nontestimonial Identification Orders in Delinquency Matters

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.

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Assessments in Delinquency Cases: When Can They be Done and Are They Confidential?

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.

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New Juvenile Law Bulletin on Juvenile Interrogation

What circumstances constitute custodial interrogation in a school setting? Who counts as a guardian or custodian for the purpose of a custodial interrogation of a juvenile? Under what circumstances can a juvenile waive their rights that attach during a custodial interrogation? A new Juvenile Law Bulletin on Juvenile Interrogation is now available as a School … Read more

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Juveniles and Firearms: Recent Data Trends

The 2022 Annual Report from the North Carolina Child Fatality Task Force (CFTF) highlights a significant increase in firearm-related deaths among North Carolina’s youth. The CFTF Annual Report, submitted in May of 2022, details child fatalities that occurred in North Carolina in 2020. According to the CFTF, rates for suicides, homicides, and firearm deaths for children in North Carolina all increased in 2020. CFTF Annual Report, p. 2. Firearms were used in 12 of the 20 suicides reported among youth ages 10 – 14 and in 19 of the 35 suicides reported among youth ages 15 – 17. All 11 of the homicides reported against youth ages 10 – 14 involved a firearm and 48 of the 50 homicides reported against youth ages 15 – 17 involved a firearm. Table 1, CFTF Annual Report. Suicide was the leading cause of death among youth ages 10 – 14 and homicide was the leading cause of death among youth ages 15 – 17. Table 2, CFTF Annual Report.

These numbers reflect an increasing trend of firearm-related deaths among youth. While there were 525 firearm-related youth deaths between 2011 and 2020, 105 firearm-related youth deaths were recorded in 2020 alone. CFTF Annual Report, p. 18.

Is this trend rooted in more violent firearm usage by youth? The suicide data clearly reflects youth use of firearms to kill themselves. Do the homicide numbers reflect youth shooting other youth? Data from the Division of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (DJJDP) may shed some light on that question.

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How to Comply with Federal Confidentiality Laws When Reviewing Comprehensive Clinical Assessments in Delinquency Cases

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.

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Structuring Individualized Delinquency Dispositions

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.

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