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Tips on the Juvenile Code Reform: Part 1 – Due Process Changes

Over the next two months, we will be blogging about the new Juvenile Code Reform law (sometimes referred to as House Bill 879, or Session Law 2015-58).  The law is effective for offenses committed on or after December 1, 2015. The three blogs will track the three Parts of the law: Due Process Changes, Reduce Further Entry, and Juvenile Confinement.  Each blog will provide a brief overview of the new law, but focus on tips for juvenile defenders.  Other materials will be linked as appropriate.

Part I, Due Process Changes, makes the following changes and additions to the Juvenile Code:

  1. Section 1.1: Amends NCGS 7B-2101(b) raising the age that an in-custody confession or admission may be admissible from 14 to 16 only when a parent, guardian or custodian or attorney is present

  2. Section 1.2: Amends NCGS 7B-2202(f) clarifying that there shall be a separate adjudicatory hearing if the court does not find probable cause for a felony offense but finds probable cause for a misdemeanor offense

  3. Section 1.3: Amends NCGS 7B-2203(d) clarifying that there shall be a separate adjudicatory hearing if the court finds probable cause but does not transfer a case to superior court

  4. Section 1.4: Creates NCGS 7B-2408.5 providing a procedure for a motion to suppress in adjudicatory hearings, very similar to the procedure in adult criminal cases in superior court

Here are tips defenders should consider in representing clients under the new law:

  1. Motions Practice – Defense counsel should ensure that, if their client was in custody at the time a statement was made to a law enforcement officer, there was a parent, guardian, or attorney present, and file a motion to suppress any evidence obtained in violation of the juvenile’s rights to preserve the record for appeal. Note the sequence of the procedures if the motion is filed prior to the adjudicatory hearing. Sample motions can be found on the Office of the Juvenile Defender website.[1] Note that G.S. 7B-2408.5 also references the exclusionary rule in G.S. 15A-974, requiring the exclusion of evidence obtained in substantial violation of statutory requirements.

  2. Probable Cause and Transfer – Defense counsel should ensure that a separate adjudicatory hearing is held following a probable cause hearing that results in a lesser offense or does not continue to a transfer hearing, or a transfer hearing that results in the case remaining in juvenile court.  If not prepared to move forward with the adjudicatory hearing, counsel should move for the adjudicatory hearing to be held on a separate date.

Additional materials:

  1. a quick-reference table describing the new law


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