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Juvenile Delinquency Case Summaries

Article Date: Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Written By: Brandi Clemmons

October 18, 2011 | Disposition; Appeals
In the Matter of J.J. Jr., 2011 N.C. App. LEXIS 2238. After the Stated filed a petition alleging that the juvenile committed first-degree sexual offense on a female child under 13, probable cause was found, and the court moved for the case to be transferred to Superior Court. At the transfer hearing, the trial court retained jurisdiction, and thereafter found the juvenile responsible for attempted first-degree sex offense. The juvenile was adjudicated of attempted first-degree sexual offense, and committed to a youth development center until his 18th birthday. The juvenile appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by (1) entering the adjudication and disposition without holding the proper adjudicatory and dispositional hearings, and (2) failing to release him during pending the appeal. A week after the juvenile entered appeal, the court entered an adjudication order finding that he committed the attempted first-degree sex offense. Following the Appellant Defender’s office being appointed to represent the juvenile, the trial court failed to indicate whether the juvenile would be released pending appeal, and provided an “NA” in the section reserved for “compelling reasons release is denied.” As to the juvenile’s first argument, he indicated that his due process rights were violated because the court only held a probable cause and transfer hearing prior to the adjudication and disposition. Furthermore, the juvenile contended that the adjudication and dispositional orders failed to provide requisite written findings of fact to support the order entered. The Court of Appeals disagreed, concluding that no statutes require that the trial court separate the probable cause, transfer, and adjudicatory hearings as long as the juvenile’s statutory and constitutional rights are not violated. The court found that the juvenile’s rights were not violated as the transcript indicated that he: received written notice of the facts alleged in the juvenile petition; was present at the hearings and provided evidence on his behalf while also cross-examining witnesses; had adequate time to conduct discovery during the seven month period between the first appearance and the hearing in question; had failed to show how he was prejudiced by the manner in which the hearing was conducted as both parties presented evidence and indicated there was no further evidence at the conclusion of the transfer hearing; and the court considered all of the evidence in making its adjudication decision. The court, however, held that the trial court failed to include the standard of proof in its written adjudication order as required by law, and therefore vacated the adjudication order and remanded to the trial court to make the necessary findings of fact. Regarding the dispositional hearing, the court held that although the court was required to, first, conclude the adjudication hearing, next, receive and consider the predisposition report, and then, proceed to disposition, there was nothing in the record to indicate at which point the report was received. Moreover, the court indicated that although there was no showing of prejudice, the trial court failed to make written findings of fact in the disposition order. Accordingly, the court also vacated the disposition order and remanded the case to the trial court to make the necessary findings of fact. In reference to the juvenile’s second argument that the trial court erred by failing to release the juvenile pending appeal, the Court of Appeals agreed. The court reasoned that although release was denied in court, the trial court failed to address release in the Appellate Entries, and provided no compelling reasons indicating why the juvenile should not be released pending appeal. The trial court only indicated direct contempt although nothing in the record supported the finding. Consequently, the court remanded the case to the trial court to enter written findings of fact in support of the adjudication and dispositional orders, as well as its order denying release during the juvenile’s pending appeal. http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=MjAxMS8xMS0zNDItMS5wZGY=


Nov. 01, 2011 | Confessions
In the Matter of R.P., 2011 N.C. App. LEXIS 2312 (unpublished opinion). The juvenile was adjudicated of felony possession of a schedule IV controlled substance, and the court entered a Level 2 disposition. The juvenile appealed, contending that the trial court erred by (1) denying his motion to suppress statements made to a school resource officer and the physical evidence seized as a result of a custodial interrogation where Miranda rights were not advised, and (2) finding him delinquent of felonious possession of a controlled substance when the evidence indicated misdemeanor possession. Regarding the first argument, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court failed to enunciate specific findings of fact in open court or in a written order, and therefore, it was unable to ascertain whether the trial court considered the juvenile’s age in determining whether he was in custody as required by J.D.B. v. North Carolina, __ U.S. __, 180 L.Ed. 2d 310 (2011). Therefore, the court remanded the case to the trial court to enter a written order with findings of act and conclusions of law addressing relevant circumstances of the interrogation, including the juvenile’s age. As to the juvenile’s second argument that there was only evidence of misdemeanor possession, the Court of Appeals agreed as the trial court erroneously classified the offense as a Class I felony instead of a Class 1 misdemeanor. Consequently, the case was remanded. http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=MjAxMS8xMS0zNzAtMS5wZGY=


Nov. 15, 2011 | Admissions
In the Matter of C.L., 2011 N.C. App. LEXIS 2348. The juvenile was charged with felonious breaking and entering, felonious larceny, and felonious possession of stolen property. Pursuant to an admission agreement, the State agreed to dismiss the felony charges and to enter a probationary disposition in exchange for the juvenile’s Alford admission to misdemeanor possession of stolen property. The juvenile appealed, arguing that the trial court erred by (1) failing to determine whether his Alford admission represented his free and informed choice, and (2) denying his motion for a continuance for the dispositional hearing. As to both arguments, the Court of Appeals disagreed. Specifically, with regard to the first argument, the juvenile contended that the trial court’s failure to inquire of whether the juvenile understood the nature and effect of an Alford admission invalidated his admission. The court held that the juvenile’s argument was without merit because the record indicated that the juvenile was informed of the consequences of making an Alford admission, understood what would occur if he made the admission, and made an “informed choice” to make an Alford admission instead of asserting the rights available had he gone to trial. Specifically, the Court of Appeals held that the trial court had addressed the factors necessary under N.C.G.S. 7B-2407 with the juvenile’s admission; inquired of the prosecutor, attorney, and juvenile of the agreement and whether there was any improper pressure exerted; and determined that there was a factual basis for the admission. The court further held that the juvenile had been adequately advised of the consequences of his Alford plea in spite of the trial court’s failure to comply with N.C.G.S. 15A-1022(d), which according to the juvenile’s argument required that he be advised that he would be treated as guilty whether he admitted guilt or not as in no cotendere cases. As to the juvenile’s second argument, the Court of Appeals found that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by denying the juvenile’s motion for continuance for the dispositional hearing. The court held that the juvenile was not attempting to obtain additional evidence, reports, or assessments, but seeking to review a predispositional report that had been available to the attorney for some time. Furthermore, the court found that the juvenile was not prejudiced by the trial court’s denial. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling. http://appel
late.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=MjAxMS8xMS00MzQtMS5wZGY=


Dec. 6, 2011 | Evidentiary
In the Matter of M.C., 2011 N.C. App. LEXIS 2501 (unpublished opinion). Petitions were filed alleging that the juvenile committed first-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping. At the adjudication hearing, the victim’s nephew was called as a witness. Thereafter, the court asked the prosecutor if there were any written interview statements made by the witness. The prosecutor indicated that there were no written statements, and the juvenile objected. The trial court overruled the objection. The juvenile appealed, arguing that pursuant to N.C.G.S. 15-903(A)(1), the trial court erred by admitting testimony by a witness when the prosecution failed to turn over documentation of its pretrial interviews with the witness. The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that N.C.G.S. 15-903(A)(1) did not apply to juvenile cases, but to cases within the original jurisdiction of the superior court. The court noted that N.C.G.S. 7B-2300 pertains to discovery in juvenile court, and does not require the State to render oral statements to written or recorded form. (The Court admonished counsel for failing to follow Rules of Appellate Procedure, which require that identities of those under the age of 18 be protected in juvenile matters in accordance with N.C.G.S. 7B-2602. Because such stipulations were not followed, personal identifying information about the juvenile and the victim was published on the court’s electronic filing site. However, the record is no longer on the filing site). http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=MjAxMS8xMS0xNTMtMS5wZGY=


Jan. 17, 2012 | Sufficiency of the Evidence
In the Matter T.H., 2011 N.C. App. LEXIS 75. Petitions were filed alleging that the juvenile committed simple assault and common law robbery. Following approval of the petitions, the juvenile’s counsel moved to dismiss the charges due to a violation of 7B-1702. The motion was denied, and the juvenile was adjudicated of simple assault and common law robbery. The court entered a Level 2 disposition, placing the juvenile on probation with multiple conditions. The juvenile appealed, arguing that (1) the trial court erred in denying his pretrial motion to dismiss because the juvenile court counselor failed to comply with 7B-1702 in filing the complaint, (2) he was prejudiced by the delay in delivery of the trial transcript, and (3) the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss the petitions at the close of all of the evidence because the elements of the crimes were not proven. In his first argument, the juvenile maintained that the juvenile court counselor failed to properly investigate the complaint against him prior to filing the petition because she only spoke with the complaining officer and not the victim or the juvenile as noted in 7B-1702. As part of its analysis, the court considered the language of 7B-1702, which in part states, “The intake process shall include the following steps if practicable: (1) Interview with the complainant and the victim if someone other than the complainant, (2) Interviews with the juvenile and the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian, and (3) Interviews with persons known to have relevant information about the juvenile or the juvenile’s family.” The court noted that the statute in question “merely provides methods by which the juvenile court counselor can obtain information,” but that “the methods shall only be used ‘if practicable.’” The court held that the terms “if practicable” exist to alleviate any onerous burden imposed on juvenile court counselors to contact numerous people to obtain information prior to filing a petition, and that such contact should be made only when additional evidence is necessary to evaluate the factors required by the Department. Additionally, the court held that the juvenile court counselor had considered the officer’s evidence prior to making the decision to file the petition, which consisted of a statement from the victim as well as a photographic lineup conducted with the victim. Thereafter, the court held that there was no reason for the juvenile court counselor to contact the victim. The court noted that the juvenile court counselor had considered the seriousness of the offense, that there was a victim of an assault, the juvenile’s delinquency history, and had spoken with the officer as well as the juvenile’s great aunt about the charges. Furthermore, the court noted that in accordance with 7B-1700, it is not the juvenile court counselor’s job to conduct field investigations to substantiate complaints. Regarding the second argument that he was prejudiced by the court reporter’s deliverance of the transcript one year after he gave notice of appeal, the Court of Appeals disagreed. The court held that the delay was not prejudicial, and noted that the delay was caused by some confusion between the court reporter being unaware of the required transcription of the Mar. 2010 hearing and the delay in appellate defense counsel inquiring about the missing transcript. As to the juvenile’s last argument, the Court of Appeals held that the elements of the crimes were proven as the State presented evidence that the victim was robbed of personal belongings while waiting for his mother after school, the victim identified the juvenile in photographic lineups and testified to his participation in the assault, and vividly described the alleged offenses. Accordingly, the decision was affirmed. http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=MjAxMi8xMS03MTgtMS5wZGY=


Brandi Clemmons is the Assistant Juvenile Defender for North Carolina.

Views and opinions expressed in articles published herein are the authors' only and are not to be attributed to this newsletter, the section, or the NCBA unless expressly stated. Authors are responsible for the accuracy of all citations and quotations.