When a child is charged with a criminal offense through a juvenile petition and placed in secure custody, the statute is silent regarding credit for time served awaiting adjudication and disposition. However, caselaw provides that youth adjudicated and disposed in juvenile court are not entitled to credit for time served in secure custody. See In re D.L.H., 364 N.C. 214 (2010).
In re D.L.H. dealt specifically with a youth who was detained following adjudication and pending disposition on a misdemeanor simple affray charge. In addressing the issue of credit for time served in juvenile court, the Court relied on the absence of credit for time served in the Juvenile Code and the Criminal Code related to delinquency matters. The Court distinguished prior cases holding credit for time served was proper in juvenile court on the grounds that those cases addressed secure custody prior to adjudication. In D.L.H., the Court reasoned that the lower court had an interest in protection of the youth as the mother had indicated to the lower court that she was not willing to have the child home, and she needed help finding an appropriate placement for the child. The Court further opined that no due process argument had been raised regarding credit for time served and that likely no due process right applied to the youth in this situation.
As a result of D.L.H. there is no right to credit for time served in juvenile court. However, “there is no bar to the court taking such time into account at the dispositional hearing.” See the North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual, Chapter 8.6F. Under the Juvenile Code, the Court is allowed to consider “any evidence, including hearsay…that the court finds to be relevant, reliable, and necessary to determine the needs of the juvenile and the most appropriate disposition.” N.C. Gen. Stat. §7B-2501(a). Counsel should argue the statute allows the courts to consider time spent in secure custody when entering disposition. Counsel could further argue that one of the rules of statutory construction is to NOT interpret statutes in such a way that applying the plain language of the statute would lead to patently absurd consequences. In these cases, the absurd result may be a youth being placed in secure custody/detention for a longer period of time than an adult would receive for the exact same charge, potentially in direct contravention of N.C. Gen. Stat. §7B-2513(a4). Another argument to consider is under N.C. Gen. Stat. §7B-2405, which states that juveniles are afforded all rights afforded to adults, with a few exceptions.
While D.L.H. addresses credit for time served in juvenile court, what happens with youth who are in secure custody but transferred to Superior Court? In those cases, N.C. Gen. Stat. §15-196.1 applies:
“The minimum and maximum term of a sentence shall be credited with and diminished by the total amount of time a defendant has spent, committed to or in confinement in any State or local correctional, mental or other institution as a result of the charge that culminated in the sentence or the incident from which the charge arose” (emphasis added).
For those youth who were in secure custody awaiting trial in Superior Court, counsel should argue that the youth is entitled to credit for time served as the youth was confined in a correctional institution or other institution. In addition, N.C. Gen. Stat. §7B-1501 defines detention as a secure confinement and detention facilities as a facility approved for secure confinement. N.C. Gen. Stat. §15-196.3 addresses the effect of credit for time served and specifically references the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice of the Department of Public Safety. These statutes read and argued together provide that credit for time served should be applied to youth transferred to Superior Court but held in secure custody pretrial.
Written by Terri Johnson, Assistant Juvenile Defender, Office of the Juvenile Defender. Terri provides direct representation in Iredell and Alexander counties and support to defenders in the Western part of North Carolina.