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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.

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