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Case Law Corner: Vol. 5

Updated: Aug 3, 2023

NC Juvenile Case Summaries

Opinions issued in December 2022

In re A.M.S.

No. COA22-266, 2022 N.C. App. LEXIS 821 (Ct. App. Dec. 6, 2022)

Unpublished Opinion

Davidson County

December 6, 2022

Summary: Juvenile entered an Alford admission in district court to Possession of a Weapon on School Property and First-Degree Trespass. An assessment conducted by the Court Counselor indicated mental health concerns. During the admission, the Trial Court engaged in a colloquy with the juvenile including the following question by the trial court: “Do you understand at this hearing you have the right to say anything about your charge, and any statement that you make can be used as evidence against you?” The Trial Court accepted the admission and ordered Level 1 disposition with probation for 12 months and cooperation with any residential treatment programs recommended. The order did not refer the juvenile for a mental health evaluation.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether the trial court must strictly comply with the statutory requirements of NCGS 7B-2407, which requires the Court ensure the juvenile’s admission is the product of a fully informed choice by the juvenile? Yes, it must. Whether the trial court must make a mental health evaluation referral if there is any evidence of mental health issues? Yes, it must.

“Here, the Record reflects the trial court may have simply misspoken when it informed A.M.S. he had the right to ‘say anything about your charge[.]’ Indeed, this appears to be a simple mis-recitation of the pre-printed form, which states: ‘you have the right to not say anything about your charge[s] . . .’ (emphasis added). Nevertheless, our case law compels a trial court’s oral inquiry ‘strictly comply’ with each requirement of N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2407(a).” (internal citations omitted).

“…NC. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2502(c)—now repealed but applicable to the Petitions in this case—required the trial court to refer [the juvenile] to the area mental health services director. The State [agrees, however] points to the more recently applicable N.C. Gen. Stat. § 7B-2502(a) as the statutory mandate requiring referral for a mental health evaluation.” (internal citations omitted).

In re J.B.

No. COA22-605, 2022 N.C. App. LEXIS 789 (Ct. App. Dec. 6, 2022)

Unpublished Opinion

Union County

December 6, 2022

Summary: Juvenile “Jacob” appeals from orders adjudicating him delinquent for second-degree forcible rape and placing him on probation for twelve months. The matter was calendared, with consent of the parties, for a date certain “for probable cause and adjudication.” The court held a combined probable cause and adjudication hearing on that date after hearing evidence and entered disposition to include twelve months of probation. On appeal, the Court reviewed the colloquies in court regarding the calendaring of the court dates and noted that trial counsel objected to a virtual hearing but did not otherwise object to scheduling the probable cause and adjudication hearings together for the same date.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether Jacob “invited error” by seeking a combined hearing and thus waived the right to appellate review concerning the invited error? Yes, he did.

“[A] defendant who invites error cannot be prejudiced as a matter of law. ‘The doctrine of invited error applies to a legal error that is not a cause for complaint because the error occurred through the fault of the party now complaining.’ ‘Thus, a defendant who invites error has waived his right to all appellate review concerning the invited error . . . .’.” (internal citations omitted).

In re L.D.G.

No. COA22-286, 2022 N.C. App. LEXIS 804 (Ct. App. Dec. 6, 2022)

Unpublished Opinion

Buncombe County

December 6, 2022

Summary: “Luke” was adjudicated delinquent for misdemeanor simple assault and misdemeanor disorderly conduct after the trial court denied his motions to dismiss for insufficient evidence. Luke was involved in an altercation in which law enforcement became involved in an attempt to break up the fight. The officer provided testimony during trial, including that Luke was at the bottom of two individuals in a fight. Parts of the officer’s testimony conflicted with his body cam footage, which was made a part of the record on appeal. The trial court denied Luke’s motion to suppress, adjudicated Luke to be delinquent, and ordered Level 1 disposition.

Issues Affecting Youth: Whether sufficient evidence was presented to survive a motion to dismiss? No, it was not.

“This Court reviews motions to dismiss for insufficient evidence de novo. In its ruling, the lower court must decide ‘whether there is substantial evidence of each essential element of the offense charged and of the defendant being the perpetrator of the offense.’ ‘Substantial evidence is relevant evidence that a reasonable mind might accept as adequate to support a conclusion.’ The trial court should deny the motion to dismiss if ‘substantial’ direct or circumstantial evidence exists ‘to support a finding that the offense charged has been committed and that the [juvenile] committed it.’” (internal citations omitted).

“This Court must consider the evidence ‘in the light most favorable to the State,’ entitling the State to ‘every reasonable inference of fact that may be drawn from the evidence.’ When a party presents circumstantial evidence, ‘the court must consider whether a reasonable inference of [the juvenile's] guilt may be drawn from the circumstances.’ When an inference is drawn, the court, as the fact finder in the juvenile matter, must then determine ‘whether the facts taken singly or in combination, satisfy [the court] beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile is delinquent.’ However, when the evidence presented advances ‘no more than a suspicion or conjecture as to . . . the commission of the offense . . . the motion should be allowed.’” (internal citations omitted).

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