Week in Review: August 3-7

Happy Friday Readers! As the meme above says, another good week done! Thank you for all that you do in these times with our youth and in your daily lives. We know things are a bit crazy and harder than normal for everyone. You rock!

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.

Webinar?

Continuing with our collaboration with the School of Law at NCCU and the Virtual Justice Project, Part II of our Covid-19: The State of Our Mental Health webinar will be Thursday, August 13 from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM. This is not a CLE.

Our guest speakers are Nikki Croteau-Johnson, MA, LP, HSP-PA from the NC Child Treatment Program in Durham, NC and Dorothy Hairston-Mitchell, Clinical Associate Professor and Supervising Attorney of the Juvenile Law Clinic at NCCU, and Jesse Edmonds, a Juvenile Court Counselor with NC DPS.

From discussions about the new school model, missing out on graduation to the shaking of their everyday lives, this webinar is intended on how to best adapt to our youth’s new path into growing up in a pandemic. Click here to register.

CLE REMINDER!

TODAY! from 3:00-4:00 PM. 

Jen Story, Tessa Hale, Mary Stansell are presenting a new CLE: Making the Connection- Education Advocacy and Juvenile Defense. 

Come to this session to learn the basics of special education laws and school-based intervention plans; how to issue-spot when students’ unaddressed needs in schools are exacerbating their behaviors; and how to incorporate this knowledge into your advocacy in a way that sets juveniles up for long-term success.  You can register for this CLE here and will be sent the meeting link information afterwards

This CLE is DEFENDER ONLY! OJD is covering CLE costs for the first 30 registrants and CLE is pending.

That’s all we have for this week!

From a Lawyer’s View: Admissions and Use of Transcript of Admission by a Juvenile

Happy Friday Readers! No Week in Review this week, but please keep reading for our new series: “A Lawyer’s View.”

When may an admission by a juvenile be accepted?  Is a transcript of admission by a juvenile, Form AOC-J-410 required for adjudication?

AOC-J-410 and Legal Requirements

AOC provides numerous forms for use in court proceedings, some required and others not.  While a transcript of admission by a juvenile is not specifically required for adjudication, it is best practice to utilize the form. This form tracks the necessary language set out in the Juvenile Code, N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407.  Because only adult superior court, not district court, requires plea transcripts, it may be thought that in juvenile court, the transcript of admission is only utilized in felony cases.  It should be noted that 7B-2407 applies to both misdemeanors and felonies. 

N.C. General Statute § 7B-2407 establishes the criteria to determine when admissions by a juvenile may be accepted.  Subparagraph (a) requires the court to address the juvenile personally and inform the juvenile of the right to remain silent and that any statement the juvenile makes may be used against the juvenile; determine if the juvenile understands the nature of the charges; inform the juvenile of the right to deny the allegations in the petition; inform the juvenile that, by the juvenile’s admissions, the juvenile is waiving the right to be confronted by the witnesses against the juvenile; determine that the juvenile is satisfied with the juvenile’s attorney; and inform the juvenile of the most restrictive disposition.

Subparagraph (b) requires the court to inquire of the prosecutor, the juvenile’s attorney and the juvenile personally to determine whether there were prior discussions involving admissions, whether the parties have entered into any arrangements and, if so, the terms of any admission.  Further, the court is required to determine whether “any improper pressure was exerted.”  The statute specifically states, “The court may only accept an admission after determining that the admission is a product of informed choice.”

Subparagraph (c) requires the court to determine that there is a factual basis for the admission based upon any of the following: a statement of facts by the prosecutor, a written statement of the juvenile; sworn testimony which may include reliable hearsay; or a statement of facts by the juvenile’s attorney.

Form AOC-J-410, if followed closely, complies with the statutorily required inquiry of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407.  While some districts, as a local practice, only utilize a transcript of admission for felonies, this can be problematic.  For example, if disposition is transferred to another county, newly appointed counsel on disposition should determine if the juvenile was properly advised at adjudication.  The juvenile may not know or remember being addressed by the presiding judge.  In the absence of a transcript of admission, counsel may need to obtain a copy of the recorded proceeding to determine if the proper inquiry was completed and whether the terms of the admission by the juvenile and the Court’s order are the same.  (Another AOC form provides the motion and order for obtaining the recording.  AOC-G-115.)

Caselaw

Failure to make the proper inquiry is reversible error.  Addressing each statutory prong of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407 is mandatory.  In re T.E.F., 359 N.C. 570, 614 S.E.2d 296 (2005) establishes that the standard is not totality of the circumstances and failure to make one of the inquiries (in that case, whether the juvenile was satisfied with his counsel) is reversible error.  See also In re A.W., 182 N.C. App. 159, 641 S.E.2d 354 (2007) where both adjudication and disposition were reversed when there was no indication of informing the juvenile of his right to remain silent and that statements made could be used against him or that he had a right to deny the allegations; In re N.J., 221 N.C. App. 427, 728 S.E.2d 9 (2012) where an adjudication was reversed when the juvenile was not advised of the most restrictive disposition prior to accepting the admission; and In re Register, 84 N.C. App. 336, 352 S.E.2d 486 (1987), stating that it is impossible for a judge to determine that the admission is the product of informed choice without making the required inquiries of each child.  Counsel should note that the Court of Appeals has determined that 7B-2407 does not apply to probation violations.  In re D.J.M., 181 N.C. App. 126, 638 S.E.2d 610 (2007).

AOC-J-410 as a Helpful Tool

In addition to providing verification of the proper N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407 inquiry, AOC-J-410 provides counsel an opportunity to ensure that the juvenile understands the proceedings and can aid communication between counsel and the juvenile.  By asking questions about the juvenile’s level of education and any medications in a more formalized way, an attorney can gain additional information to aid in proper advocacy.  Counsel should consider keeping a copy of the transcript of admission for use during the adjudication.  This can be particularly useful for juveniles with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) or for juveniles who are visual rather than auditory learners.  Reviewing a transcript of admission in advance will help prepare the juvenile for court and can decrease anxiety regarding court.  It may be the Court’s first opportunity to see and address the juvenile client, so preparation in advance is a necessity. 

Finally, should a matter be transferred to another county for disposition, the transcript of admission can provide useful information to counsel for disposition advocacy.  In addition to providing information regarding the juvenile’s educational level and whether the juvenile is taking any medications, form AOC-J-410 provides documentation of the terms of any arrangement regarding admissions.  Clerical errors on adjudication orders may be easily addressed with comparison to a transcript of admission.  A local practice that dictates that a transcript of admission only be utilized for felonies may increase the risk of errors in adjudication orders for misdemeanor offenses. 

Best Practice Based upon N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407

While use of a transcript of admission does require additional time in and out of court, best practice is to utilize AOC-J-410.  The Court may accept an admission by a juvenile only after addressing each of the criteria set out in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407.  The statute applies equally to both misdemeanors and felonies, and failure to address even one of the criteria is reversible error.  Use of form AOC-J-410 in all cases ensures that the juvenile is properly advised pursuant to N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407, decreases the risk of errors in adjudication orders and aids in communication with the client and disposition advocacy.  If counsel is appointed in a juvenile matter for disposition following transfer from another county, counsel should carefully review the Court file and be prepared to obtain and review any recordings when a transcript of admission has not been utilized.  In cases where the proper statutory inquiry was not made, Counsel should advise the juvenile regarding entering notice of appeal.

Written by: Assistant Juvenile Defender Terri Johnson. Terris  graduated Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Duke University in 2000.  She received her Juris Doctor degree from UNC Chapel Hill School of Law in 2003, and was admitted to the North Carolina Bar in 2003.  Her practice areas included criminal law, family law and juvenile law and has focused on juvenile law as OJD’s Assistant Juvenile Defender in delinquency court in both Iredell and Alexander counties.

View From the Bench: The Use of Transcripts by Guest Blogger Judge Lawrence Fine

There are few things that occur in juvenile court that are more frustrating, annoying and seemingly useless than the process of preparing and reviewing the Transcript of Admission for misdemeanors.  The practice of requiring the use of transcripts for misdemeanors appears to vary from county to county and is some instances from judge to judge within a county.   It is a time consuming exercise for counsel, it seems as if many juveniles have no idea what is being discussed on the transcript and after all, it’s only a misdemeanor.  Though this all may be true, it is clearly the better practice to require a Transcript of Admission every time a juvenile admits to any act of delinquency.

NCGS 7B-2407(a) enumerates these six summarized inquiries the court must address with the juvenile personally before an admission by a juvenile can be accepted: the right to remain silent; determining the juvenile understands the nature of the charges; right to deny the allegations, the right to confrontation;   satisfaction with counsel; and most restrictive dispositions.  The statute also requires in sub section (b) that the court ensure there is no undue pressure exerted on the juvenile and the admission is a product of informed choice.

The Transcript of Admissions serves several useful purposes. First, it ensures that all of the required statutory inquiries are addressed by the court. It also gives the juvenile an opportunity to review with counsel these questions prior to the juvenile being subjected to court inquiry. Counsel must be satisfied that the juvenile’s admission is an informed choice before allowing that juvenile to be questioned by the court.  Finally, it gives the court more confidence that the juvenile has had adequate time to meet and consult with counsel prior to entering into an admission.

The statute is silent as to the use of transcripts. Surely all jurisdictions use them for felonies.  Misdemeanors also carry delinquency history points that can significantly impact a juvenile in future juvenile and adult proceedings.  7B-3000 allows a prosecutor access to a juvenile’s record of adjudication for a class A1 misdemeanor for purposes of pretrial release, plea negotiating decisions and plea acceptance decisions.  It is the better practice for all parties and the court to use the Transcript of Admission so that all can be confident that any juvenile admission is the product of an informed choice.

Judge Lawrence Fine has been a presiding District Court Judge in Forsyth County since 2001.  Judge Fine is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Wake Forest University School of Law, teaching juvenile law and procedure and recently co-founded the Juvenile Law Externship program.