Court of Appeals Delinquency Opinions

The Court of Appeals released three delinquency related unpublished opinions in March.

Adjudications

In the matter of D.B., 2016 N.C. App. Lexis 271 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s):  Trial court may deny a motion for continuance when counsel is not seeking to obtain additional evidence or assessments.

Restitution

In the matter of J.L.A.I., 2016 N.C. App. Lexis 266 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s):  The State may not introduce evidence after trial as a basis for a juvenile’s adjudication.

Evidence

In the matter of A.L. 2016 N.C. App. Lexis 264 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s)Defense counsel must establish evidence to support a self-defense claim before introducing evidence of victim’s history of violence.

 

 

 

Motions Bank

In an effort to continue to improve the usability of this website, the Office of the Juvenile Defender has recently made some changes that will make navigation and research of the motions bank a little easier.

You can now access the motions bank directly by clicking on Information for Defenders, Materials for Defenders. A separate Juvenile Defender Trial Motions and Forms tab will open as you hover over Materials for Defenders. Hopefully, this change will allow you to access the motions and forms that you need without multiple clicks.

Check out the new page and let us know if there are any bugs/glitches or if there are any improvements to the site that you would like to see. As always, it is our desire to serve as a resource to you. Your feedback is both welcome and appreciated.

Court of Appeals Delinquency Opinions

The Court of Appeals released five delinquency related opinions in July.

Confessions

State v. Saldierna, 2015 N.C. App. LEXIS 630

Rule(s): Ambiguous statement(s) touching on a juvenile’s right to have a parent present during an interrogation triggers a requirement for the interviewing officer to clarify the juvenile’s meaning

Adjudications

In the matter of K.M.M., 2015 N.C. App. LEXIS 572

Rule(s): Adjudication orders are not required to delineate each element of an offense.

Detention and Custody

In the matter of R.B.L., 2015 N.C. App. LEXIS 592 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s): A juvenile is not considered in custody unless he is subjected to additional restraints beyond those generally imposed during school hours.

Conflicts and Restitution

In the matter of T.H. & A.M., 2015 N.C. App. LEXIS 599 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s): (1) Dispositional orders requiring restitution must include findings of fact demonstrating that the best interests of the juvenile are being served.

(2) Unless circumstances indicate otherwise, trial courts may assume that multiple representation entails no conflict or that the attorney and his clients knowingly accept such risk of conflict may exist

Petitions

In the matter of I.E.H., 2015 N.C. App. LEXIS 555 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s): Short form language in juvenile petitions is allowable.

Court of Appeals Delinquency Opinion

In the matter of C.J.J., 2015 N.C. App. Lexis 471 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s): Judge can impose the maximum term of imprisonment equal to an adult sentence in the aggravated range if the court finds that the term is the best plan for the juvenile and in the interest of the State.

The State filed a petition alleging the juvenile committed larceny from the person and common law robbery. The juvenile admitted that he committed larceny from the person, and the State dismissed the other petition for common law robbery. The trial court entered a level three disposition and committed the juvenile to a youth development center (YDC) for a minimum of six months to a maximum of 39 months.

The juvenile appealed first arguing the trial court violated N.C.G.S. § 7B-2513(a) by committing him to a maximum of 39 months for the larceny from the person adjudication, which was an amount more than the presumptive sentence that an adult could receive for committing the same Class H felony. Specifically, the juvenile asserted that because N.C.G.S. 7B-2513 references structured sentencing, and N.C.G.S. 15A-1340.13 refers to an aggravated sentence as a “deviation” from presumption sentencing, “maximum term of imprisonment” should be interpreted to mean only the maximum in the presumptive range.

The Court disagreed holding that “the maximum term of imprisonment” could include a placement term equal to an adult sentence in the aggravated range for that class of felony offense with a prior record level of VI, if the court finds that the term would be the best plan for the juvenile and best interests of the State.

While the issue wasn’t raised at trial, the juvenile also argued for the application of Blakely v. Washington, which held that it was a violation of a defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to enhance a criminal sentence by aggravating factors without first submitting them to a jury and having that jury find them beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court overruled the argument noting that Blakely has only been applied to criminal proceedings involving juveniles tried as adults but not juvenile adjudications, dispositions and commitments.

Next, the juvenile contended that the trial court abused its discretion in committing him to a youth development center because the findings of fact show that his rehabilitation and treatment needs did not support the conclusion that commitment was warranted.

N.C.G.S. § 7B-2501 states that “in choosing among statutorily permissible dispositions, the court shall select the most appropriate disposition both in terms of kind and duration for the delinquent juvenile” and sets forth five factors that the court must consider in selecting a disposition. In the present case, the Court determined that the trial court made findings pursuant to the aforementioned factors in the written order and at the hearing. The Court found that while it was true that the court counselor recommended the juvenile receive treatment in the community and a level 2 disposition, it was within the trial court’s discretion to reject the recommendation. Accordingly, the disposition order was affirmed. https://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=32651

 

 

 

In the matter of C.E.N., 2015 N.C. App. LEXIS 391 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s): (1) Notice of appeal must specifically designate each judgment or order from which appeal is taken.

(2)  Using incorrect criminal terminology from the bench does not invalidate an adjudication.

The juvenile was charged with committing common law robbery. Adjudicatory and disposition hearings were held on July 3, 2014. On July 9, 2014 the trial court filed an adjudication order finding the juvenile delinquent and a Level 1 disposition order was entered on the same day. On July 14, 2014 the juvenile gave written notice of appeal from the adjudication order only.

Rule 3(d) of the NC Rules of Appellate Procedure requires that the notice of appeal must specifically “designate the judgment or order from which appeal is taken.” In the present case, although the juvenile purported to appeal from the dispositional order as well, the Court determined that his arguments alleging error as to disposition were not properly before the Court. Consequently, the Court did not address the juvenile’s arguments regarding the trial court’s disposition order.

In the juvenile’s arguments regarding the adjudication order, the juvenile asserted that the trial court erred by (1) denying him his right to be present at “judgment” and (2) making insufficient findings of fact to support its adjudication. Specifically, the juvenile contended that although he was in court for all of the adjudicatory portion of the hearing, the trial court denied him his right to be present at adjudication. The record indicates that at the close of the adjudication portion of the hearing, the trial court announced its adjudication of the juvenile as “guilty” and then immediately proceeded to disposition. The juvenile contended that the trial court “rendered an erroneous adjudication order” at the hearing by using inappropriate criminal terminology and that the written order of adjudication the court later filed represented a substantive change from the “criminal conviction” the court announced from the bench.

The Court disagreed finding that while it was unfortunate that the district court failed to use the proper terms, the meaning of the court’s phrase “verdict of guilty” was utterly clear: the juvenile was responsible and adjudicated thusly. Further, the Court determined that the trial court did adjudicate the juvenile delinquent in the juvenile’s presence at the hearing by inquiring whether the parties were “ready to proceed to disposition,” which confirmed the juvenile’s adjudication. The Court also found that the written order did not represent a substantive change from the adjudication rendered at the hearing.

Next the Juvenile argued that the trial court erred in making insufficient oral and written findings of fact to support its adjudication. The Court disagreed noting that N.C.G.S § 7B-2411 does not require the trial court to make any oral findings of fact. Further, the Court has previously held that a written adjudication order satisfies the minimum requirements of N.C.G.S. § 7B-2411 when it provides the date of the offense, the class and level of the underlying offense, the date of the adjudication, and clearly states that the court considered the evidence and adjudicated the juvenile delinquent as to the petition’s allegation . . . beyond a reasonable doubt. In the present case, the Court found that adjudication order met each of the aforementioned requirements. Accordingly, the order was affirmed. http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=32753

State v. Antone, 2015 N.C. App Lexis 265

Rule(s): the trial court must consider all mitigating factors in determining whether a juvenile should be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole and must include findings of fact on the absence or presence of any mitigating factor

The defendant was charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and first degree murder. The defendant was 16 years old and a ninth grade student when the crime occurred. The jury found the defendant guilty of first degree murder based upon both felony murder and malice, premeditation and deliberation. The trial court was required to decide whether the defendant should be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, or life imprisonment with parole pursuant to Part 2A of Article 81B of Chapter 15A of the North Carolina General Statutes. The trial court entered an order and subsequently a judgment sentencing defendant to life imprisonment without parole. Judgment was arrested on the robbery with a dangerous weapon conviction.

On appeal the defendant argued that the trial court erred by imposing a sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole where it failed to identify any mitigating factors present in the case. The Court agreed.

N.C.G.S. § 15A-1340.19C(a) states that when sentencing a minor who has been convicted of first degree murder that was not solely based on the theory of felony murder “the court shall consider any mitigating factors” in determining whether a defendant should be sentenced to life without parole. Further, the statute says that “the order adjudging the sentence shall include findings on the absence or presence of any mitigating factors and such other findings as the court deems appropriate to include in the order.”

The Court of Appeals has held that the “use of the language ‘shall’ is a mandate to trial judges, and that failure to comply with the statutory language is a reversible error. The NC Supreme Court has further held that mere recitations of evidence “cannot substitute for findings of fact resolving material conflicts.”

In the present case, the Court found that the trial court’s findings of fact and order failed to comply with the mandate set forth in N.C.G.S. 15A-1340.19C. The trial court’s order made cursory, but adequate findings of fact as to the mitigating circumstances set forth in N.C.G.S. § 15A-1340.19B(c)(1), (4), (5), and (6), but the order did not address factors (2), (3), (7), or (8). The Court stated that factor (8), the likelihood of whether a defendant would benefit from rehabilitation in confinement, was a significant factor.

The Court went on to find that portions of the findings of fact were more recitations of testimony, stating that “the better practice is for the trial court to make evidentiary findings of fact that resolve any conflicts in the evidence, and then to make ultimate findings of fact that apply the evidentiary findings to the relevant mitigating factors as set forth in N.C.G.S. § 15A- 1340.19B(c). If there is no evidence presented as to a particular mitigating factor, then the order should so state, and note that as a result, that factor was not considered.”

Accordingly, the Court vacated the order and judgment of the trial court and remanded the case for a new sentencing hearing. http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=32541

In the matter of C.M., 2015 N.C. App. Lexis 249 (unpublished opinion)

Rule(s): absent formal arrest, the fact that police have identified a person interviewed as a suspect and the fact that an interview is designed to produce incriminating responses from the person are not relevant in assessing whether that person is in custody for Miranda purposes.

Petitions were filed against juvenile alleging that he committed felony breaking and entering, felony larceny pursuant to felonious breaking and entering, conspiracy to commit felony breaking and entering, and violated local curfew ordinances. The juvenile filed a motion to suppress the statements made to the police, asserting that he was not advised of his rights under Miranda and N.C.G.S. § 7B-2101 prior to the interrogation. At the adjudication hearing, the trial court denied the juvenile’s motion to suppress, finding that given the totality of the circumstances, no custodial interrogation had occurred. The juvenile admitted to one count of conspiracy to commit felony breaking and entering and the trial court adjudicated the juvenile delinquent and placed him on supervised probation for nine months.

The juvenile appealed arguing that the trial court erred by denying his motion to suppress, asserting that his statements resulted from a custodial interrogation. The juvenile contended that the circumstances found in In re D.A.C., which the trial court used as guidance in determining if the juvenile was subject to a custodial interrogation, were distinguishable from the present case.

The Court disagreed finding that similar to In re D.A.C., the juvenile’s mother had scheduled the meeting with the police and invited the officers inside her home for the meeting. The juvenile was fifteen years old on the date of the interrogation and the detective was aware of this fact. The detective testified that when he asked juvenile a question, his answers were given “freely.” The conversation took place in juvenile’s home at 4:00 p.m. so it was still light outside. The detective wore civilian clothes while the other officer was in uniform. The juvenile was questioned in the presence of his mother. Although both officers were armed, neither reached for their weapons at any point in the conversation. The juvenile was not handcuffed or physically restrained in any way. At no point throughout the conversation did juvenile or his mother ask the officers to leave or request to end the conversation.

Further, in In re D.A.C. the Court found that:

 

[a]lthough any interview of a suspect will necessarily possess coercive aspects, Miranda warnings are not required                         simply because the questioned person is suspected by the police of wrongdoing. In fact, [a]sent indicia of formal arrest,             [the facts] that police have identified the person interviewed as a suspect and that the interview was designed to                               produce incriminating responses from the person are not relevant in assessing whether that person was in custody for               Miranda purposes.

Therefore in the present case, the Court concluded that that the trial court did not err by finding that juvenile’s statements to officers resulted from an impermissible custodial interrogation conducted without the warnings required pursuant to Miranda and N.C.G.S. § 7B-2101. Accordingly, the trial court’s denial of juvenile’s motion to suppress was affirmed. http://appellate.nccourts.org/opinions/?c=2&pdf=32329

Updated Case Law Compendium

Over the last few months, the Office of the Juvenile Defender has updated and revised our case list in the hopes of making it more user-friendly. The revised compendium features three primary differences from the previous version:

First, there is now a table of contents. The cases remain grouped by topic, but this will save counsel time in finding relevant issues. Those using an electronic copy, rather than printing it, can click on the desired topic to go straight to the correct page in the PDF.

Second, at the beginning of each topic is a short, broad description of the issues it includes. This should provide counsel with a better sense of whether they will find relevant cases in a given section.

Third and foremost, each summary now includes a statement of law distilled from the case. The rules are not exhaustive, but are intended to condense some pivotal point or ultimate holding.

As in years past, the case compendium is intended to be a living and breathing document, so updates will occur monthly as decisions are released.

You can access the compendium on our website by clicking Case Law on the Information for Defenders Page.

We would like to extend our most sincere gratitude to Howard Lintz, Pro Bono Legal Associate, for his work in reformatting and organizing both the individual cases, and the document itself. His insight and attention to the most minute of details was invaluable.

Year In Review

As we close out 2014, we would like to briefly highlight a few activities that the Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) undertook over the year.

Contracts and Training:

Contracts: We were able to evaluate 11 of the 14 juvenile contracts over the course of 2014. The evaluation process includes court observations as well as brief interviews with the pertinent court actors. We are continuing to participate with IDS on ways to improve interactions with contractors and explore ways to identify future contractors.

Training: We collaborated with the UNC School of Government (SOG) to plan the first Juvenile Advanced Training in March. The training was similar to the Trial School format and feedback indicates that it was well-received.  We also worked closely with the SOG to plan the Annual Juvenile Defender Conference that was held in August. Our office presented at several other local and national trainings over the course of the year, including an offering hosted by the Wilmington Public Defender Office that focused on the Sex Offender Specific Evaluation, the National Juvenile Defender Center Summit in October and the 9th Annual Models for Change National Working Conference in December.

Legislation:

As you may recall, in the last session of the General Assembly the House passed HB725 (Raise the Age) but the Senate did not take up the legislation. In order to move the legislation forward, a new bill would need to be proposed during the next legislative session in January 2015. While we do not have any definitive information, we understand that there is some indication that one or more bills may be proposed.

Additionally, we have worked with the North Carolina Bar Association Juvenile Justice and Children’s Rights Section to develop technical changes to the Juvenile Code which will hopefully improve outcomes for our clients.

 Outreach:

This year we developed a communication protocol and launched our new website. The site is designed to be more interactive and allows us to disseminate information in real time. We strongly encourage our partners and stakeholders to contribute content, such as blog posts, relevant events or training opportunities, pertinent research, etc. We also continued the quarterly defender call that was introduced last year. The calls are intended to provide an opportunity for delinquency attorneys across the state to connect and discuss issues relevant to the practice.

This year the OJD presented at the Campbell, Charlotte, Elon, University of North Carolina and Wake Forest Schools of Law. We collaborated with Elon to develop a pro bono project in Guilford County, which evolved into an extern program where Elon Law students can specifically work with the juvenile assistant public defenders in the Guilford County Public Defender Office. In September 2014, OJD stepped down as host of the Southern Juvenile Defender Center.  We appreciate the opportunity from the National Juvenile Defender Center to connect defenders from seven southeastern states, work on policy issues together, and resurrect the regional summits.

New Initiatives:

Research indicates that very few eligible juveniles are applying to have their delinquency records expunged. As you know, delinquency records can impact juveniles in a number of ways, and expunging these records can ease access to vocational and educational resources, as well as impact potential future contact with the criminal justice system.  However, there is no right to paid counsel, and there are few, if any, pro bono resources for juveniles. To that end, next year we will work to develop an expunction project that would increase community awareness, develop a mechanism for tracking juveniles to clearly quantify the numbers of expunctions, and explore possibilities for low- or no-cost legal assistance for juveniles and their families.

Also, in an effort to encourage up and coming attorneys to commit to delinquency work, we are considering developing a leadership mentor program designed to match experienced and active defenders with new attorneys in hopes of getting them involved with delinquency related issues and the greater delinquency community.

As we look toward the new year, we continue to perform our ongoing functions including: representing juvenile defense on various boards and committees, meeting with other juvenile justice advocates discussing various juvenile issues, responding to the media as requested, consulting with trial court practitioners and appellate counsel, providing training materials to groups and individuals, co-authoring the Juvenile Defender Newsletter with the North Carolina Advocates for Justice, and monitoring the legislature and the appellate courts.