From a Lawyer’s View: Youthful Offenders – What to Do When Clients Want to Be Transferred

Who are youthful offenders?

In the jurisdiction where I practice, we refer to 16-17 year-old clients who are subject to potential mandatory transfer to superior court as youthful offenders. This age group has its own special needs and challenges. One challenge is when your client either refuses an offer that will allow him/her to stay in juvenile court and/or requests transfer to superior court.

We know from science that adolescent brains are not fully developed until approximately between the ages of 21-25. We know that these differences in brain development have practical implications which impact their ability to plan ahead and think in hypothetical terms. We also know that they exhibit a greater degree of risk taking and more easily succumb to peer pressure. All of these factors (and more) influence their ability to make decisions and affect a teen’s ability to exhibit self-control. Additionally, they tend to be less sensitive to negative consequences. All of these factors (and more) played a role in North Carolina finally implementing the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act (also known as Raise the Age) to include youth under 18 under juvenile court jurisdiction for many offenses.

N.C.G.S. §7B-2200.5 requires a youth who is charged with an A-G felony offense to be transferred to superior court for trial as an adult after a finding of probable cause or indictment. So how does this impact your representation of a 16 or 17 year old client who tells you s/he wants to be transferred to superior court or refuses to admit to an offer that will allow him/her to remain in juvenile court?

What Is Our Role?

The first, and most important, thing to remember is that as defenders our role is NOT to advocate for the best interest of our client. We are express interest advocates and represent our juvenile clients with the same zealous advocacy that we do for our adult clients – even if we disagree with the decision s/he is making once we’ve counseled him/her regarding the benefits and risks of any decision. This means we must give our clients all the information they need, in language they can understand (i.e. age appropriate) to allow them to make their own decision. There is nothing wrong with challenging their thought process or asking someone they respect to have a conversation with them about the risk of transfer.

Assuming you have exhausted all your options in advising your client, and despite all your good legal advice your client insists on moving forward, what do you do? I would suggest the following:

  1. Get a second opinion – talk to a local attorney who you trust or contact our office to get advice on other ways to advise your client.
  2. Review with your client the possible collateral consequences of a transfer to superior court. OJD has a form that lists possible risks/consequences of transfer that requires your client to acknowledge that s/he has been informed and is choosing to transfer against advice of counsel. You can access the form here.
  3. Put it on the record. Make the court aware of your client’s decision, but do it in a professional manner that doesn’t negatively impact the court’s view of your client.

Lastly,

4. Respect your client’s decision. You may disagree, but it’s important to respect your client’s agency in making a decision that s/he will have to live with.

Written by Kim Howes, Assistant Juvenile Defender for The Office of the Juvenile Defender. Kim Howes has extensive juvenile court knowledge and directly represents juveniles for OJD while also supporting the middle districts of North Carolina, including Wake & Durham counties.

Week in Review: Feb 22-26

Happy Friday Readers! We’ve conquered the last week of February and ready to start new challenges on Monday, March 1, right? Right! A Monday and first of the month? Please! Just a little humor to get us going but as always, here’s to your week in review.

Tip of the Week – Discovery

The Juvenile Code has similar discovery rules to those followed in adult criminal court.  Though Juvenile Court is in District Court, most jurisdictions understand that discovery transfer is a practice for both misdemeanors and felonies in Juvenile Court.  Even if there’s an “automatic discovery” rule in your jurisdiction, you should always file a motion  to receive discovery.  Note that the state may also file a reciprocal motion, which may impact your decision on presenting expert opinion testimony or reports.

Have you seen our FINAL #BlackHistoryMonth Spotlights?

Charlotte Dover (Left) & Aleta Ballard (Right)

This week we showcased two great attorneys and their work within the juvenile defense community. First up was Charlotte Dover on Tuesday and Aleta Ballard on Thursday via our Twitter and FaceBook pages. To catch up on their spotlights: You can see Charlotte’s spotlight here & Aleta’s spotlight here. We would like to thank all of our Spotlight Attorney’s for being so willing to participate and show us what #BlackHistoryMonth means to each one of them and the importance of equality in our juvenile justice system. We appreciate you!

And if you haven’t followed us on Twitter & FaceBook yet, click the links to do that too!

LGBTQ CLE: Representing LGBTQ Youth

OJD would like to thank Ames Simmons on his presentation for our Representing Youth CLE held on Wednesday. The class covered topics such as a LGBTQ 101, pronouns, identity, how to support and approach young LGBTQ members who may not know how they identify and how to advocate for them individually.

Eric Zogry for the NC Bar Blog

OJD’s Eric Zogry was a guest blogger for the NC Bar titled, “Reconsidering North Carolina’s Minimum Age of Jurisdiction. He speaks on the need to raise the minimum age of children that can be charged with a crime, citing committees and tasks forces that have worked to recommend what that age should be. To read Eric’s blog, click here.

Happy Weekend!

Week in Review: Feb 15-19

Happy Friday Readers! We finally made it to the weekend, how good does it feel? Not to keep you waiting, let’s get right to it.

Tip of the Week – Before You Plea

Talk to your client about the impacts of an adjudication.  While not as public as adult criminal convictions, juvenile adjudications may impact the following: immigration status, educational placement, housing conditions, eligibility to play sports, placement on a sex offender registry (in N.C. or other states) and others.  Always consider the long-term consequences of what may first appear to be a short-term decision.

FROM IDSIMPORTANT

The Commission on Indigent Defense Services recently approved a modest, but much-needed, partial restoration of rates paid to private counsel providing representation in some case types. Specifically, the Commission voted to raise by $5 an hour the rate for high-level felonies, with a corresponding increase in non-hourly representation for adult criminal and juvenile delinquency proceedings. The Commission also voted to raise by $5 an hour the rate for DWI and Class A1 misdemeanors disposed of in the district court, with a corresponding increase in non-hourly representation. The increases approved by the Commission will take effect on March 1, 2021. Please click here to read the notice from Darrin Jordan, the Commission Chair, and IDS Executive Director, Mary Pollard. Also, if you have any questions, please reach out to Whitney Fairbanks via email.

Have you seen our #BlackHistoryMonth Spotlights?

Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell & Sharif Deveaux

This week we showcased two great attorneys and their work within the juvenile defense community. First up was Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell on Tuesday and then Sharif Deveaux on Thursday on our Twitter and FaceBook pages. To catch up on their spotlights: Click here for Dorothy & Click here for Sharif.

OJD CLE NEXT WEEK!

Wednesday, February 24, 2021 at 2:30 PM, OJD is hosting “Representing LGBT Youth”. This CLE will be presented by Ames Simmons, the Policy Director for Equality NC. This program will be a 90 minute CLE, with application pending and FREE TO THE FIRST 35 REGISTRANTS. This webinar includes a general review of introductory concepts and terminology related to LGBTQ identities, including the importance of pronouns to professionalism. We will discuss gender-expansive youth and the processes of gender transition for young people. We will talk about LGBTQ youth in out-of-home custody and present best practices for advocating for LGBTQ young people in the juvenile legal system. CLICK HERE TO REGISTER.

Got Some Extra Time This Weekend?

Kids Behind Bars: Life or Parole is a 2020 show that premiered on A&E and covers the individuals stories of youth sentenced to Life without Parole who are now seeking resentencing due to changes in law throughout their imprisoned life and new evidence. This show is not indicative of strategy or pertinent information of NC law and statute, this is shared simply for additional information on how changes in LWOP have affected juvenile justice. To watch and learn more, click here.

Week in Review: Feb 1-5

Happy Friday Readers! February is the shortest month in our calendar but what some like to call, “the real start to the new year, January is a test run.” February also brings Black History Month and we have some great shares coming your way this month, so keep an eye out on our socials!

ANNOUCEMENT

In a a week or two, OJD will be undergoing a bit of a makeover. Our website is getting a whole new look and feel to better fit the needs of a growing and changing audience. Please bear with us during that time and if you need anything, feel free to email or call and we will make sure you get your motions, forms, and tips. Thanks!

Tip of the Week

Transcript of Admission Tips 

Filling out a transcript of admission on any admission of a new offense is important for several reasons.  It memorializes the record of admission in writing if subject to an appeal.  Reviewing the transcript with your client helps your client better understand the admission and the rights s/he is asserting or waiving.  Make sure you complete the transcript with your client present and do so in a confidential space. Consider making a copy of the transcript to keep at the attorney table to help your client answer questions.  Stand with your client when the court asks your client the listed questions and be prepared to confer with your client if any issues arise.

Resources

Don’t forget about our guest blogs that have been posted recently. They contain some very important information alongside some extra tips to make our Defenders even better than they already are!

The Kitchen Sink: Written by David Andrews on challenging automatic transfers.

Yasi: Written by Kim Howes and discusses the new Youth Assessment tool and issues to be aware of.

Black History Month – Did You Know?

Juvenile girls, ages 14-17 held in detention. Source: Biography.com

As Defenders and Juvenile Justice advocates, we know that the voice of children can challenge and change the way we think and increase our desire to make the world a better place for them. This is not a new way of thinking and is evident throughout history and here is just one of many stories below:

On May 2, 1963 in Birmingham, Alabama is known as the Children’s Crusade or most notably called, “The Birmingham’s Children’s Crusade.” This was a series of non-violent demonstrations held by children aging from 5-17 and a result of the incarceration of Martin Luther King, Jr and his “Letter’s from a Birmingham Jail” among others detained during civil rights movements in Alabama. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference and Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights believed that if officers saw young children present, and trained them in non-violent tactics, but that was not the case. 100s of young children were arrested and detained and on the second day, the Commissioner of Public Safety ordered pepper spray to be used on the children, also hitting them with batons and threatening them with police dogs. Under the threat of harm, these children continued to protest the business segregation in Birmingham and lack of civil human rights they were receiving. By May 10, after national visibility and frustration, Birmingham city leaders agreed to desegregate businesses and free all the jailed children and adults from the demonstrations. In response to the Children’s Crusade, Dr. King said. “Even though we realized that involving teenagers and high-school students would bring down upon us a heavy fire of criticism, we felt that we needed this dramatic new dimension…Our fight, if won, would benefit people of all ages. But most of all we were inspired with a desire to give to our young a true sense of their own stake in freedom and justice. We believed they would have the courage to respond to our call.”

To read more about this historic event, please click here.

THANKS FOR READING!

HAVE A GREAT, SAFE, FUN, AND COZY WEEKEND!

From A Lawyer’s View: The Kitchen Sink

Over the past several months, attorneys at the Office of the Juvenile Defender, the Wake County Public Defender’s Office, and my office (the Office of the Appellate Defender) have been strategizing on how to challenge automatic transfer from juvenile court to superior court.  One other attorney – Katie Kerr – served as both scribe and generator-of-ideas.  Katie helped move this process along and deserves a great deal of credit for pulling us over the finish line.  The finish line, of course, are new packets for juvenile defenders to challenge automatic transfer from district court to superior court.

The new packets come in two varieties.  One for 13-, 14-, and 15-year-olds and one for 16- and 17-year-olds.  Each packet contains instructions, a motion and a supporting memorandum for district court, and a separation motion and memorandum for superior court. 

Why all the fuss?  There two primary concerns: completeness and waiver. 

Regarding completeness: Those of us who worked on these packets tried to come up with any and all arguments that might convince a court to strike down automatic transfer.  The kitchen sink, you might say.  We might have missed a few arguments, but we included several, including procedural and substantive due process, cruel and unusual punishment, and even the deprivation of the right to counsel.  We don’t know which – if any – of these ideas might work, but we hope that at least one will.

Regarding waiver: Appeals are byzantine.  There are many traps for the unwary, including waiver.  In order to blunt inevitable waiver arguments on appeal, we strongly recommend that you challenge automatic transfer in both juvenile court and adult court.  File the motions and memoranda.  Then, raise all of the arguments orally and get rulings on them all.  As I mentioned above, we might not win on the merits, but we at least want to be able to argue the merits on appeal.

If you have questions about challenging automatic transfer, I encourage you to post them to the juvenile listserv.  I guarantee others will have the same concerns.  And good luck litigating this important issue!

The motions and instructions can be located on the Office of the Juvenile Defender website in the Defender’s Only Section. If you need to obtain access, please contact LaTobia Avent at Latobia.s.avent@nccourts.org


Written by, David Andrews. David W. Andrews is an Assistant Appellate Defender in the North Carolina Office of the Appellate Defender (OAD), a division of the Office of Indigent Defense Services. OAD staff attorneys represent indigent clients in criminal, juvenile delinquency, and involuntary commitment appeals to the Court of Appeals of North Carolina and the Supreme Court of North Carolina.

Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument (YASI)

Youth Assessment & Screening Instrument (YASI)

by Kim Howes, Assistant Juvenile Defender

The Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) is implementing a new screening tool (YASI) to replace the current risk and needs assessment. The stated purpose of this new assessment is to better measure the risk of recidivism and to help develop an appropriate case plan to best suit the needs of the youth who is placed on probation. You can access the presentation from DJJ here.

The assessment addresses nine domains: basic needs, physical health, school, family, aggression, peers, attitudes, free time, and adaptive skills. There is both a pre-screen assessment and a full assessment. The Department of Juvenile Justice provided an overview of the assessment in November and as a result we want to provide you with some of our concerns as well as provide you with issues you may need to be aware of to assist you with advocating for your client at disposition.

Most importantly, this assessment is designed to take place at intake or prior to adjudication. While statute §7B-2413 specifically provides that the risk and needs assessment shall not be submitted or considered by the court prior to disposition, we know that in some jurisdictions this isn’t the case and information is shared prior to adjudication. This is especially an area of concern given the new assessment. As an important reminder – §7B-2408 explicitly prohibits any statement made by the youth to a juvenile court counselor during intake to be admissible to the court prior to the dispositional hearing.

Issues to be aware of:

  • The child accumulates points for not only prior adjudications, but also referrals and petitions filed for probation violations, regardless of whether or not the violation was adjudicated.
  • Several sections (basic needs, free time, community involvement, school) have the potential to create disparity based on poverty and DSS involvement, not necessarily factors that are in our client’s control.
  • There are broad stroke assumptions about who may or may not be a positive influence and who may or may not be a gang member.
  • The sections addressing attitudes and aggression are areas of significant concern. These sections assume the youth is responsible and if the youth doesn’t admit there are points assessed for impact of behavior and willingness to make amends. There are several additional questions that address sex offenses that could possibly lead to additional petitions.

 These concerns are difficult to address because the majority of these assessments will be conducted prior to assignment of counsel. As a result, depending on your jurisdiction, you may need to proactively ensure that any information received is not provided to the ADA prior to adjudication, and if it is, consider objecting to the court and, if necessary, making a motion to suppress statements made to the court counselor. We have a sample motion here.

We hope by making you aware of this new assessment and its potential issues you will be better able to protect your client’s rights and help the court understand your client in a way that will help the court better address your client’s individual needs at disposition. Please reach out to OJD to let us know of any concerns you see as this is implemented.

You can access and review the pre-screen assessment here, and full assessment here.


If you would like to save this blog post as a document, please click here.

Your 2020 Year in Review

We have reached the Year in Review portion of our weekly reviews! How did we get here so fast?! While this year has been the most challenging, between Zoom & WebEx, crashing technology and “Can you hear me?” ten times a day, everyone has worked so hard to keep our support of #JuvenileJustice strong. So true to tradition we have put together a culmination of what OJD has done throughout the year and it feels like so much :D.

With the tremulous year of 2020 ending, The Office of the Juvenile Defender (OJD) would like to recap how the year unfolded through it all. We’ll review how OJD hired a new Assistant Juvenile Defender, hosted new trainings, managed the first year of Raise the Age (RTA), and produced several materials as required for the second year of the federal OJJDP grant. OJD has worked throughout the year to keep our defenders informed and supported, while working on new ways to serve the state, such as our Regionalization plan.

Activities and Initiatives Since COVID-19 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, OJD has held weekly check-ins to speak about current projects, ways to engage in the community without physical contact, and how to support defenders in the best way through the various projects listed in this report. OJD has been reaching out to defenders in the field, offering support and resources and gathering information to relay to the defender community.  Additionally, we have communicated with other court actors, especially juvenile justice administration, to stay updated with ongoing changes in policies and procedures. We began work on additional pocket guides like the RTA guide released in December. Each guide will highlight a specific area of juvenile delinquency law and provide defender strategies, such as secure custody and adjudication. We also began developing remote training capabilities and plan to pilot trainings during the court closure. Each one of these activities and initiatives will be discussed further below along with updates from the initiatives from 2019.

Raise the Age

              While RTA implementation has been slowed by the impact of COVID on the courts, OJD has been steadily reacting to the impact of the new law: 

  • General consulting on trial and appellate issues 
  • Focusing on specific issues, including indictment procedure and the intersection of bonds with youth in detention 
  • Challenging the “automatic” transfer provisions through motions practice 
  • Working with IDS General Counsel on the development of a comprehensive chart on the appointment/payment/recoupment of attorneys representing transferred juveniles 
  • Participation on the Juvenile Jurisdiction Advisory Committee, with a focus on discussing ongoing conforming changes to the law, as well as the minimum age of juvenile jurisdiction in NC (it is currently 6, the lowest stated age in the U.S.) 

Take a break, settle in and get comfy, and read our 2020 Year in Review here.

Week in Review: Dec 7-11

Hello from another Friday Readers! We’re inching closer and closer to a new year and even closer to cold weather. Hope you’re staying warm and cozy while you keep up the amazing work of juvenile defense or advocating for juvenile rights. And next week, we’ll be recapping what a year 2020 has been within OJD and the NC Court System. See you then!

Raise the Age Tip of The Week

How Do I Know the State Will be Seeking the Gang Enhancement Against My Juvenile?

Under current law, there is no process for notice to the juvenile and the juvenile’s attorney that the state is seeking the gang enhancement.  As the juvenile’s attorney, you should consider the following:

  • Get a copy of the gang assessment from DJJ prior to adjudication
  • Argue that the notice of gang enhancement be presented pre-adjudication
  • Develop a theory of defense against client’s involvement in gang activity
  • Prepare for a hearing on the issue
  • Request a hearing, similar to an adjudicatory hearing
  • Request the court make findings on the record and appeal where  appropriate

ncIMPACTFaceBook Live Event

LaToya Blackmon Powell will be participating in a live panel discussion about School Justice Partnerships, hosted by Anita Brown-Graham, Professor of Public Law and Government and Director of the ncIMPACT initiative at the School of Government. The discussion will be filmed by UNC-TV as a Facebook Live event from 12-1 PM this coming Monday, December 14.

We hope you are able to attend and participate in the virtual discussion and/or share the information with others who may be interested. This is a great opportunity to ask questions and engage in an interactive conversation.

Juvenile Defense Policy and Practice Resource Guide

The National Juvenile Defender Center (NJDC) is pleased to announce the release of their updated Juvenile Defense Policy and Practice Career Resource Guide.  Every year, NJDC updates this guide to provide students and others with valuable resources to jumpstart a career in juvenile defense. NDJC has created this electronic guide to raise the profile of juvenile defense as a career.  It is intended for law students interested in pursuing juvenile defense as a career and includes information on coursework and externships that will help strengthen a candidate’s application in the juvenile defense field; resources to guide in the search for juvenile defense jobs, fellowships, and funding opportunities; and a list of offices around the country that provide employment and internship opportunities specific to juvenile defense. Please feel free to use it as a resource and share with others who may be interested!

Now Seeking 2021 “From a Lawyer’s View”  Guest Bloggers

LaTobia is looking for guest bloggers to contribute to our new series, “From a Lawyer’s View”. Defenders and those in juvenile justice are welcome to write in on topics of their expertise: secure custody, mental health in juveniles, etc! We want to hear from you! We’ll take your tips and blog posts! Reach out to LaTobia here for more information.

Week in Review: Nov 30 – Dec 4

Happy December Readers! Can you honestly believe we are in DECEMBER already? With everything we have collectively experienced in 2020, raise your hand if you’re ready for a new year! So let’s start our countdown together, shall we?

LET’S CELEBRATE ONE YEAR OF RAISE THE AGE!

It’s officially been 1 year (and 3 days to be exact) since Raise the Age went into effect. One year of some legal shaking in the courtroom, 1 year of 16 and 17 year old’s who commit crimes (with exceptions) being treated as youth and not adults, in the eyes of the law. How has RTA affected your stance in the courtroom? Has it been more difficult, challenging or a breeze? We want to hear from you!

Tip of the Week – RTA Edition

What Is the Process for Indictment?

Once a petition is filed against a juvenile, the prosecutor may submit the petition to a grand jury for indictment.  Unlike in adult criminal court where the prosecutor submits a bill of information prior to charges being filed, in juvenile court the grand jury process starts after the formal charging process (petition filed) begins.  If an indictment is handed down against the juvenile and the juvenile is given notice, the juvenile court must transfer the case to superior court.

JOB POSTING!

The Council for Children’s Rights in Charlotte / Mecklenburg County. They are seeking to hire a full-time Juvenile Defense Attorney to join its Children’s Defense Team.  The Juvenile Defense Attorney will represent children in delinquency and civil commitment matters in Mecklenburg County Juvenile Court.  To apply, please submit a cover letter and resume by December 7, 2020. 

A direct link to this job posting and to apply can be found by clicking here.  Please feel free to share this on your social media and with your colleagues. We have also posted this on our Twitter (@NCOJD) and our FaceBook (@NCOJD) for easy re-sharing.

Week in Review: Oct 26-30

Trick or Treat Readers! We hope you had a great week, and that your Zoom and WebEx calls were safe from the Bandwidth Ghost.

Tip of the Week

Immigration Consultations 

Did you know that IDS has made immigration consultants available to all defenders who have been appointed indigent clients? That means all of your juvenile clients! This may be especially helpful to determine if your client may be eligible for some type of immigration relief since s/he is a juvenile. Simply go to the IDS website to access the form here. You may want to print out the printable version and put it in your case file to fill out when you meet your client and then upload the information when you get back to the office.

Thank you to everyone who attended our “haunted” CLE, Probation and Post Supervision. While we did not anticipate the WebEx issues, we do have some great tips to share from our WebEx admin:

  • If you do not have a @NCCOURTS.ORG email domain, next time you go to WebEx, just click Join Meeting. Do not click Sign-In but rather just follow the prompts as they appear. If it asks for a meeting number, it is located in your registration approval email.
  • Remember that some applications delete this email if you add it to your calendar, which is also a direct link to the meeting and all you’ll need is the password.

We appreciate your patience while these WebEx kinks get worked out in court and for everything else!

Resources

  • What exactly is a YDC or Detention Center?: This YouTube video explains what Detention Centers and Youth Development Centers (YDC) are, the differences and what attorneys, parents, and youth can expect if their adjudication includes a stay in either. Please watch this short video created by NC DPS.
  • North Carolina Department of Public Safety Juvenile Justice Section will begin using a new risk and needs assessment instrument beginning January 1, 2021. This new tool is called the Youth Assessment and Screening Instrument (YASI).  DJJ is offering virtual Q&A’s on the new tool to assist with the use when it launches. Please click here to see times to sign up for a session, REGISTRATION ENDS TODAY!
  • Public Defenders and Assistant Public Defenders, check out this grant information to assist with law school debt. The JRJ grant is a loan assistance program. The federal John R. Justice (JRJ) grant is available for prosecutors and public defenders most in need of assistance with heavy law school debt load. The JRJ grant is a loan repayment assistance program.  Selections will be made by the NC LEAF Board on Friday, December 4 at 10 AMApplications are due November 13 and the process is not onerous. The key factor is making the required three-year commitment to remain in the job or face repayment of funds provided by the US government. All the information is available on their website https://ncleaf.org/ 
  • October 15-16, NJDC held their 2020 Juvenile Defender Leadership Summit. Filled with presentations, resources and conversation, NJDC has released some of their resources from the program for your viewing and saving. Some sessions and resources require a password, so make sure you’re registered, but click here to check out what you missed!
  • The Public Defender Education group at the School of Government is happy to announce the release of the 2020 edition of the North Carolina Defender Manual, Volume Two, Trial, by Julie Lewis and John Rubin. The manual focuses on criminal procedure at the trial stage and includes chapters researched and written from 2018 to 2020. The manual is intended to be a resource for trial-level criminal defense attorneys; however, others who work in North Carolina’s criminal courts may find it useful. Click here if you are interested in purchasing a hard copy. The manual is also available for viewing online at no charge as a part of the Indigent Defense Manual Series

We hope you find some great -information this week and have a safe, fun, and scary Halloween! Eat plenty of Snickers for us!