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.