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Case Law Corner: Vol. 4

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

NC Juvenile Case Summaries

July 1, 2022 to November 30, 2022

In re M.E.W.

873 S.E.2d 685 (N.C. Ct. App. 2022)

Unpublished Opinion

Guilford County

July 5, 2022

Summary: The appeal was dismissed without prejudice as Appellant was unable to establish appellate jurisdiction of the matter. Even though the juvenile entered a written notice of appeal, there was no signed and filed adjudication and disposition orders from which an appeal could have been taken.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether a juvenile may appeal a decision of a trial court before a signed, written order is entered? No, he may not.

“Delinquency proceedings under the Juvenile Code are civil in nature, and accordingly, 'proceedings in juvenile matters are to be governed by the Rules of Civil Procedure.'” (internal citations omitted).

“‘The entry of judgment is the event which vests this Court with jurisdiction.’ Thus, ‘a party cannot appeal an order until entry occurs.’ When "judgment from which [a party] attempts to appeal has not been entered by the trial court, th[e] appeal must be dismissed." (internal citations omitted).

In re B.W.C.

877 S.E.2d 444 (N.C. Ct. App. 2022)

Gaston County

September 6, 2022

Summary: Juvenile-appellant "Brian" appealed from an order adjudicating him as delinquent for indirect contempt and placing him on probation for six months. In April of 2021, Brian admitted to truancy in an undisciplined action for accruing 58 absences from school. During that proceeding, he was not represented by counsel. The matter was continued for disposition until June of 2021 with conditions imposed by the Court expressly requiring attendance at school with no further absences, amongst other requirements, with a warning that violation of the conditions may result in Brian being held in Contempt. At the undisciplined disposition hearing in June, Brian was placed on probation under the supervision of a court counselor with terms of probation including the contempt warning order previously entered. In August, a probation violation was filed alleging failure to attend school and a separate delinquency petition was filed alleging violation of the contempt warning. At this time, Brian was appointed counsel on the delinquency petition and counsel filed a motion to dismiss the petition, arguing violation of his due process and statutory rights as “N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2505 read together with § 7B-2503 did not allow the trial court to pursue delinquency actions following an adjudication of undisciplined, and emphasizing the General Assembly's distinction between ‘children adjudicated undisciplined versus children adjudicated delinquent[.]’” The trial court denied the motion to dismiss, and Brian admitted the indirect contempt alleged in the petition. The trial court found Brian to be delinquent and entered disposition.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether the State may seek a delinquency adjudication for contempt in response to noncompliance with orders arising from an undisciplined adjudication? Yes, it may.

“Under a plain reading of N.C. Gen. Stat. §§ 7B-1501 and 5A-31, it is clear that [ ] Brian committed indirect contempt when he violated his disposition order by failing to attend school regularly, an action which was done outside of the direct presence of the trial court. Under N.C. Gen. Stat. § 5A-33, it was proper for the trial court to find Brian delinquent as a result of such contempt, as a juvenile's indirect contempt may be ‘adjudged and sanctioned only pursuant to the procedures in Subchapter II of Chapter 7B of the General Statutes[,]’ which contains N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-1501.” (internal citations omitted).

In re J.M.

876 S.E.2d 874 (N.C. Ct. App. 2022)

Unpublished Opinion

Forsyth County

September 6, 2022

Summary: Juvenile-appellant "James" appealed from an adjudication order finding him responsible for simple assault. James took the witness stand to testify on his own behalf during the hearing and made several self-incriminating statements including linking his personal identity to that of social media identity otherwise implicated in the proceedings. The Court did not conduct any colloquy with James regarding his privilege against self-incrimination before James took the stand.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether failure to hold the colloquy as required by N.C.G.S. §7B-2405 (privilege against self-incrimination) before a juvenile testifies on his own behalf constitutes reversible error? Yes, it can.

“In an adjudicatory hearing held ‘to determine whether the juvenile is undisciplined or delinquent[,] . . . the [trial] court shall protect’ the juvenile's ‘privilege against self-incrimination[.]’ ‘[P]ursuant to this statute, the trial court shall protect the juvenile's delineated rights, including the right against self-incrimination.’ ‘The use of the word 'shall' by our Legislature has been held by this Court to be a mandate, and the failure to comply with this mandate constitutes reversible error.’” (internal citations omitted).

In re A.O.

878 S.E.2d 657 (N.C. Ct. App. 2022)

Mecklenburg County

October 4, 2022

Summary: “Anthony” was charged with common law robbery in regard to an attack on Mr. Rodriguez in the parking lot of a Fast Mart convenience store. Anthony was alleged to be one of five male, minority teenagers involved in the fight with Mr. Rodriguez. At trial, Mr. Rodriguez was unable to identify whether Anthony was the teenager who took Mr. Rodriguez’s wallet, or “if it was another one.” Anthony’s motion to dismiss at close of State’s evidence was denied. Anthony testified on his own behalf. The trial court provided no warnings to Anthony before he testified. Anthony testified that while he was not involved in the fight, he was the one to take the wallet. Anthony was adjudicated delinquent.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether failure to hold the colloquy as required by N.C.G.S. §7B-2405 (privilege against self-incrimination) before a juvenile testifies on his own behalf constitutes reversible error? Yes, it can.

“Our courts have consistently recognized that the State has a greater duty to protect the rights of a respondent in a juvenile proceeding than in a criminal prosecution.’ The General Assembly has taken measures to ensure that a juvenile's rights are protected during a delinquency adjudication. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2405 states, ‘In the adjudicatory hearing, the court shall protect the following rights of the juvenile and the juvenile's parent, guardian, or custodian to assure due process of law: . . . [t]he privilege against self-incrimination.’” (internal citations omitted).

“‘[A]t the very least, some colloquy [is required] between the trial court and juvenile to ensure the juvenile understands his right against self-incrimination before choosing to testify at his adjudication hearing.’” (internal citations omitted).

In re H.T.S.

2022-NCCOA-754 (N.C. Ct. App. 2022)

Unpublished Opinion

Cumberland County

November 15, 2022

Summary: Cumberland County Department of Social Services (CCDSS) appeals a Level 2 disposition order for a delinquent juvenile in which the juvenile was placed in CCDSS’s custody following an admission of guilt to assault with a deadly weapon. The disposition order did not contain findings of fact as required by NCGS §7B-2501(c), leaving the section of the Disposition Order for findings under §7B-2501(c) entirely blank, nor under §7B-2506, requiring a finding that placement with county DSS requires a finding that the juvenile’s continuation in his own home would be contrary to the juvenile’s best interest, and the related section on the Disposition Order was left blank for this section as well. During the hearing, counsel for DSS and the juvenile’s mother were asked if they wished to be heard; counsel for DSS provided a blanket objection to the juvenile being placed in DSS custody and the juvenile’s mother provided some remarks to the Court. Neither presented evidence. On appeal, CCDSS argued that the mother’s constitutional rights to parent the juvenile was infringed upon by the award of custody to CCDSS and that, by extension, custody with CCDSS was improper. It was also argued that failure to make the appropriate findings of fact in the Dispositional Order constituted fatal deficiency.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether the trial court must make findings of fact showing the trial court considered all five factors in §7B-2501(c) and the single factor in §7B-2506(1)(c)? Yes, it must. Whether placement with the local Department of Social Services is contrary to the parent’s constitutional rights to parent the child? The issue was not reached.

“The trial court must consider all five factors under § 7B-2501(c), and the trial court’s dispositional order must reflect that the trial court considered all five factors. The trial court may indicate its consideration of the statutory factors in both its findings of fact, and in the conditions of the disposition itself.” (internal citations omitted)

In re J.M.M.C.

No. COA22-524, 2022 N.C. App. LEXIS 763 (Ct. App. Nov. 15, 2022)

Unpublished Opinion

Richmond County

November 15, 2022

Summary: James was adjudicated delinquent of simple possession of marijuana and a Level 1 disposition was entered, ordering that James be placed on supervised probation for a term of 6 months. Trial counsel appealed prior to the court’s entry of the written final order. The disposition order did not contain findings demonstrating it considered the factors listed in NCGS §7B-2501(c) in entering the dispositional order.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether the trial court must make findings of fact showing the trial court considered all five factors in §7B-2501(c)? Yes, it must.

““The dispositional order shall be in writing and shall contain appropriate findings of fact and conclusions of law.’ ‘The plain language of Section 7B-2501(c) compels us to find that a trial court must consider each of the five factors in crafting an appropriate disposition.’” (internal citations omitted).

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