State v. Antone: How to Apply Juvenile Life Decision to Other Delinquency Procedures

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On April 7, 2015 the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversed the ruling for life without parole for Mr. Antone, a 16 year old convicted of robbery with a dangerous weapon and first degree murder (you can find the decision here).  Mr. Antone, represented by Assistant Appellate Defender David W. Andrews, argued that the superior court failed to follow the statutory mandate to make findings of any mitigating factors pursuant to N.C.G.S. 15A-1340.19B.  The Court of Appeals found that the language “shall” mandates that the trial court comply with the requirements of the statute.  In Mr. Antone’s case, the superior court failed to make findings on several of the enumerated mitigation factors.  The Court of Appeals also noted that the superior court merely recited testimony, instead of the “better practice” of making evidentiary findings of fact to resolve conflicts in evidence.

There are several procedures in the Juvenile Code where this same analysis is applicable.  Specifically, defenders should consider enforcing findings of fact in transfer hearings and disposition hearings.  Under N.C.G.S. 7B-2203, the court is to consider eight separate and distinct factors in determining whether the protection of the public and the needs of the juvenile will be served by transfer.  It is not uncommon for the court to emphasize particular factors, or not address other factors at all. Defense counsel should remind the court of its duty to consider all factors, object when the court fails to follow the statutory mandate, and preserve the record for appeal.   Similarly N.C.G.S. 7B-2501 sets out factors for the court to consider in determining the most appropriate disposition.  Too often the court enters a standard disposition, not considering the statutorily mandatory factors listed.  Defenders should focus on the factors that individualize their client and advocate for the court to enter a disposition that is tailored to their client’s specific needs. As stated above, counsel should object when the mandated factors are not considered and preserve the record for appeal.

Registration for Juvenile Delinquency Board Certification Now Open

The Board of Legal Specialization is now taking applications for certification in Criminal Law – Juvenile Delinquency. Applications are due July 1, 2015.  Any attorney representing juveniles or the state are encouraged to apply. New changes to the application requirements include:

  • “substantial involvement” is defined as an average of 400 hours per year delinquency practice for the previous five years but no less than 100 hours in any one year
  • service as a law professor in a juvenile delinquency legal clinic may be used to meet the substantial involvement criteria
  • the practice of state criminal law, representing adults or the state in district or superior court, may be used to meet the substantial involvement criteria but not to exceed 100 hours for any year during the five years

In addition, there is again this year the establishment of a scholarship fund to provide scholarships that will pay the application fees for prosecutors, public defenders, and non-profit public interest lawyers who wish to become certified specialists.  The fund will be administered by the North Carolina Legal Education Assistance Foundation (NC LEAF).   This collaboration with NC LEAF furthers the mission of both NC LEAF and the specialization program.  Assisting public interest lawyers to seek board certification recognizes commitment to service and will encourage these lawyers to continue to serve underrepresented citizens and the public and to improve their knowledge and skills in their practice areas.  In recognition of her long service to the specialization program, the fund is named The Jeri L. Whitfield Legal Specialty Certification Scholarship Fund. Funding is limited, so apply early.

Please contact Denise Mullen at dmullen@ncbar.gov or 919-719-9255 with any questions.

Juvenile Recidivism Study

The North Carolina Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission recently released its “Juvenile recidivism Study: FY 2010/11 Juvenile Sample.” The research design included juveniles brought to court with a delinquent complaint that was adjudicated, dismissed, diverted, or closed from the sample period July 1, 2010 through June 30, 2011. The juveniles were tracked for a fixed three-year follow up period. Recidivism was defined as all subsequent delinquent complaints and/or adult arrests within the three years following the event that placed the juvenile in the sample. Important findings for our work include:

  • 88% of the juveniles had a misdemeanor as their most serious sample offense;
  • The most common type of offense (whether misdemeanor or felony) was property;
  • Almost half (48.6%) of the juveniles in the sample were black, and black juveniles receive fewer diversions as a percentage than all other race categories;
  • Only 5.5% of juveniles reported some type of gang involvement;
  • Most notable findings from the risk/needs assessments indicated that 81.2% of the juveniles had school behavior problems, combined with 57.3% indicating a need for mental health care, 26.6% substance abuse problems, and 57.6% had negative peer relationships.

The results indicate that the juvenile’s attorney may be able to impact future juvenile recidivism in the following ways:

  • Keeping your client out of court is the best key to success – advocate for formal and informal diversions:
    • The further a juvenile was processed in the juvenile justice system, the more likely that juvenile was to recidivate;
    • The overall recidivism rate was 42%, however, if a juvenile was adjudicated the recidivism rate increased to 53%. If the juvenile was diverted, the recidivism rate declined to 39%;
    • Males, blacks, and juveniles aged 13-14 had higher recidivism rates, as did those with higher risk or needs scores.
  • Advocate and be familiar with alternatives to keep your client out of detention and/or from being sent to YDC:
    • Confinement, whether in a detention center or a YDC, increased the probability of a juvenile having an adult arrest;
    • Overall, 37.6% of the confined juveniles (detention and/or YDC) had one or more adult arrests compared to 19.2% of juveniles who were not confined;
    • Recidivism was lower when the response of the juvenile justice system was less invasive, either by processing and intervening with youths short of adjudication or, if adjudicated, providing disposition short of the most restrictive option of confinement.

The study concluded that the most efficient use of resources is in the community, at the front-end of the juvenile justice system. The majority of juveniles in the system benefit from rehabilitative resources of a less restrictive nature. Juvenile defenders may influence their client’s ability to benefit from these findings by being familiar with community resources as well as asking about your client’s likes, dislikes, favorite activities, and home situation. Even if your client’s matter wasn’t diverted by the court counselor, presenting alternatives and favorable facts to the prosecutor may result in a diversion for your client – and potentially a lower risk that s/he will end up moving deeper into the juvenile court or adult system.

You can find the complete report here: NC Sentencing and Policy Advisory Commission Juvenile Recidivism Study: FY 2010/11 Juvenile Sample (May 1, 2015).

Reminder, Friday May 8: 2015 Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section Annual Meeting: Immigration Issues in Juvenile Court and The Impact of Race in Juvenile Proceedings

This two part CLE program covers different issues related to representing minority children in different areas of the law. A unique opportunity to come to one or both sessions and learn about:

  • Immigration issues in juvenile court proceedings, and/or
  • Racial justice issues and litigation strategies in juvenile court.

The morning session, Immigration Issues in Juvenile Court and The Impact, focuses on common issues arising in the representation of immigrant children, including:

  • practical advice for navigating the unique obstacles that arise when representing non-English speaking children or parents, including ethical requirements, communication, translation, interpretation and cultural competencies; and
  • ensuring that immigrant clients have access to public services such as health benefits, Medicaid and public education.

The afternoon session, The Impact of Race in Juvenile Proceedings, focuses on issues in the representation of minority children, including:

  • gathering and analyzing data available through public records requests and other means, and how to use this data to advocate for wide-reaching change;
  • learning ways to apply information from the recently published School of Government manual —designed to assist defenders with litigating race-based issues— to the unique landscape of juvenile delinquency court; and
  • a panel discussion to examine the issues related to disproportionate minority contact in juvenile delinquency court through the eyes of a judge, a prosecutor and a defense attorney.

Register here.

Planned by the NCBA Juvenile Justice & Children’s Rights Section