The North Carolina Juvenile Code defines a juvenile as any person who has not reached age 18 and is not married, emancipated or a member of the armed services. However, a person may be found delinquent only for conduct that occurs before the age of 16, and a child may not be found either undisciplined or delinquent for conduct that occurs before the age of 6.
An undisciplined juvenile is a youth under age 18 (and at least 6) who is regularly disobedient to and beyond the disciplinary control of the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian; who is regularly found in places where it is unlawful for a juvenile to be; or who has run away from home for a period of more than 24 hours. A juvenile who is unlawfully absent from school, while at least 6 but not yet 16, also is an undisciplined juvenile.
The North Carolina Juvenile Code defines a delinquent juvenile as any juvenile who, while at least 6 years of age but not yet 16, commits an offense that would be a crime under state law or under an ordinance of local government, including violation of the motor vehicle laws, if committed by an adult. A young person’s case is handled like the case of an adult when a youth commits a crime while age 16 or 17, or older, or while the youth is married, emancipated, or in the armed services.
The juvenile justice system is separate and different from the adult criminal justice system. Adults are held fully responsible for their behavior. They can be arrested, charged with a specific crime, tried before a jury of their peers, found guilty or not guilty, and, if found guilty, sentenced according to the seriousness of the crime and the interest of the state. Young people are treated differently, having many, but not all, the rights of adults. Juveniles are not arrested, but rather are taken into temporary custody. Juveniles have no right to a trial by jury but instead are subject to a hearing before a judge, at which time the juvenile may be adjudicated as undisciplined or delinquent. The judge’s decision on the disposition (or sentence) is based on meeting the juvenile’s needs and interests and the interests of the state. The court attempts to do what is best for the juvenile to help make sure he/she is not brought into the juvenile justice system again or the adult system later.
FAQs About the Juvenile Justice System
In North Carolina, juvenile cases are handled in the state district courts. Generally, that court has jurisdiction (authority) over young people who fit the legal definitions of delinquent or undisciplined juvenile, those who engage in undisciplined behavior while at least 6 but not yet 18, and those who engage in delinquent behavior while at least 6 but not yet 16. The court may keep jurisdiction over any undisciplined or delinquent juvenile until the juvenile reaches 18. When a juvenile is sent to a youth development center for one of the most serious offenses, the juvenile may be kept in youth development center until his or her 19th birthday. In the most serious violent offenses, a juvenile may be kept in a youth development center until he or she is 21. A judge may send a juvenile to a youth development center only if the juvenile is delinquent and is at least ten years old. (Other conditions apply as well.) The court also has jurisdiction over young people under age 18 who need protection because they are abused, neglected, or dependent.
After a judge finds that a youth is undisciplined or delinquent, the judge orders a disposition (similar to a sentence in the adult system). For delinquent juveniles the judge has many options. The judge may place a delinquent juvenile on probation, order the juvenile to pay a fine, pay money to the victim, perform community service, prohibit the juvenile from being licensed to drive a motor vehicle, and/or order the juvenile to spend time in a group home, detention facility, or a youth development center. Which disposition the judge orders will depend on:
- the seriousness of the offense the juvenile committed
- the juvenile’s prior record
- the juvenile’s needs
- the protection of the community
An undisciplined juvenile cannot be placed on probation or sent to a youth development center, but can be placed under the protective supervision of a court counselor. An undisciplined juvenile can be sent to a detention facility for short periods of time if the juvenile violates conditions of protective supervision.
Probation requires a delinquent juvenile to abide by conditions set by the court and to cooperate with supervision by a court counselor. If the juvenile violates the conditions of probation the juvenile may be returned to court, and the judge may order a different disposition, such as detention or placement in a youth development center.
Protective supervision is similar to probation, but is only for undisciplined juveniles. A court counselor supervises the juvenile’s compliance with the conditions set by the court and tries to offer appropriate services to the juvenile and the juvenile’s family. If the juvenile violates the conditions of protective supervision, the juvenile may be found in contempt and placed in a detention facility for a short period.
A complaint is made to the intake counselor of the court who evaluates the case and determines if it should go to court. If so determined, the counselor approves the complaint. The juvenile is notified that a petition has been filed when a summons to appear in court and a copy of the juvenile petition are served on the juvenile and his/her parent(s) or legal guardian(s).
The term arrest is not used in reference to juveniles. However, under the following circumstances a juvenile may be taken into temporary custody
for up to 12 hours (or longer if on a weekend or legal holiday) without a court order:
- by a law enforcement officer if grounds exist for the arrest of an adult under identical circumstances;
- by a law enforcement officer or court counselor if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the youth is an undisciplined juvenile under state law;
- by a law enforcement officer, court counselor or N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice worker if reasonable grounds exist to believe that the youth has run away from a youth development center or detention facility; or
- by a law enforcement officer or Department of Social Services worker if there are reasonable grounds to believe that the youth is abused, neglected or dependent and would be injured or could not be taken into custody if time were taken to obtain a court order.
Secure custody is placement in a detention facility and is used mainly for delinquent and for some undisciplined juveniles. Non-secure custody is placement in a foster home or comparable environment and is used for some undisciplined juveniles as well as abused, neglected or dependent juveniles.
A detention facility is appropriate only if the juvenile is alleged to be delinquent or undisciplined and meets the criteria for secure custody. Whether or not a juvenile will be held in a detention facility depends on the circumstances of the case and whether there are grounds to detain the juvenile to protect the community, for the juvenile’s protection or to secure the juvenile’s presence in court.
Youths have juvenile hearings that are similar to adult trials. If the juvenile is subject to loss of liberty by placement in a youth development center, the juvenile is given certain rights by the United States Supreme Court. These rights include written notice of the alleged offense, a court-appointed attorney, the right to remain silent, and the right to confront and cross-examine any witness against the juvenile. If the offense charged is a crime, it must be proved by the same standard of proof “beyond a reasonable doubt” that is applicable in criminal trials.
A juvenile 13, 14 or 15 years of age who commits a felony may be transferred to Superior Court for trial as an adult. A District Court judge, after a finding of probable cause under juvenile procedures in District Court decides whether to keep the matter in District Court or to transfer the case to the adult Superior Court. If the case is transferred to adult court, the juvenile has all of the constitutional rights of an adult and may be sent to prison if convicted. In addition, the juvenile no longer has any protections of confidentiality.
After an adjudication of delinquency, the court conducts a dispositional hearing at which the judge must consider reports of social, medical, psychological and educational information about the juvenile to determine which of the authorized dispositions are appropriate. After adjudication, the reports are made available to the judge and to the juvenile to allow the juvenile to present evidence as to which disposition is preferable.The various dispositional options are organized into 3 levels. Level 1 (community dispositions) includes probation, community service, and a variety of other options. Level 2 (intermediate dispositions) includes intensive probation, more hours of community service, and a number of other options that are more severe than those in Level 1. Level 3 has only one disposition, placement in a youth development center. A chart in the Juvenile Code tells the judge which level or levels the judge may choose from in selecting a disposition in a particular case, based on (1) the seriousness of the offense the juvenile committed and (2) the number and type of offenses, if any, the juvenile has committed previously. If the chart tells the judge that only Level 1 options are available, the judge then considers the juvenile/s needs in order to decide exactly which Level 1 to order. If the chart tells the judge that only Level 3 is appropriate, the judge must commit the juvenile to a youth development center unless the judge finds that the juvenile has extraordinary needs that require some other disposition.
A delinquent act is the same thing as a crime. It is a criminal act committed by a young person under the age of 16. Crimes are divided into two groups- misdemeanors and felonies. Misdemeanors, the less serious crimes, are divided into four classes (A1, 1, 2, and 3) according to their seriousness. Felonies, the more serious crimes, are also divided into classes (A through I), according to their seriousness. These categories are used in the juvenile system too. For example, the category of the offense juvenile commits can determine whether the juvenile will be photographed and fingerprinted, how long the juvenile can be kept in a youth development center, and whether the juvenile’s record can be expunged. The Juvenile Code also has its own categories of offenses, which the judge must use in determining which options are available at disposition. These categories are Violent (Class A through E felonies), Serious (Class F through I felonies and Class A1 misdemeanors), and Minor (Class 1, 2, and 3 misdemeanors).
FAQs About JCPCs
N.C. Department of Public Safety, Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice provides state funds to each county’s JCPC.
Programs wishing funding must respond to the Council’s request for proposals
All funding decisions are based on these proposals
Each program is evaluated using the Standardized Program Evaluation Protocol (SPEP) on an annual basis.
See the “Programs” portion of our Web site
The county Board of Commissioners appoints members for two-year terms
Once each month