Experienced Juvenile Court Attorney and Former Juvenile Court Judge in Greensboro, High Point and all of Guilford County, NC
Juvenile Court generally includes cases involving:
Delinquency and Undisciplined Juveniles
Abuse, Neglect and Dependency of Juveniles and Termination of Parental Rights
Delinquency and Undisciplined Juveniles
In North Carolina, Juvenile court is where allegations for delinquent or undisciplined minors are heard. When a minor is charged with a crime, it is considered a delinquent act. If the minor runs away from home or skips school, they would be said to be undisciplined. Because science shows that children’s brains are not fully developed and may not be able to control their behavior, as well as for privacy reasons, juveniles are not generally treated as adults in court and their cases are handled in a separate court setting. The purpose is to allow a child who has committed an illegal act to learn the consequences of their actions and rehabilitate their behavior. This also serves to lessen the chance that the court process would affect their future like an adult criminal record could, as their record generally remains private.
What is the age for Juvenile Delinquency in NC?
Until recently, anyone 16 years or older charged with a criminal offense in North Carolina was treated as an adult and their case would be handled in adult court. Beginning December 1, 2019, under North Carolina’s “Raise The Age” law, anyone alleged to have committed a criminal act from age 6 up until their 18th birthday (with some exceptions) will have their case handled in juvenile court (unless the charge is serious enough that the case gets transferred to adult court). However, 16 and 17 year olds charged with traffic offenses and violent felonies will still go directly to adult court.
What are the differences with Juvenile Court and Adult Court?
Juvenile Court differs from adult court in many ways. One major difference is the terms used in juvenile court. Some differences include:
|Juvenile Court ||Adult Court |
|Complaint ||Police Report/Warrant |
|Petition ||Criminal Complaint/Charge |
|Admission ||Plea |
|Adjudicatory Hearing ||Trial |
|Adjudication ||Conviction |
|Delinquent Juvenile ||Convicted Person |
|Disposition ||Sentencing |
|Detention Center (juveniles only) ||Jail |
|Secured Custody ||Incarcerated |
|Court Counselor ||Probation Officer |
However similar, the terms used in juvenile court are not necessarily a direct match to the adult court terms because the process itself is different.
When a complaint is made against a juvenile, it gets submitted to a court counselor who reviews the allegations and makes a determination to either file a Petition to bring the case into court or to have the juvenile enter into some type of diversion program to avoid court. When the court obtains jurisdiction over the juvenile, it also has jurisdiction over the parent/custodian, as they become an important part of the juvenile’s rehabilitation.
Experienced in Juvenile Court Cases
An experienced attorney can make a huge difference in the outcome of a case. Most attorneys are not experienced in handling juvenile cases. Now that the State has increased the age for juvenile matters, there will be more cases in juvenile court than ever before. At the Law Office of David E. Sherrill, your case will be handled by an attorney with over 15 years of experience handling juvenile cases as an attorney and former juvenile court judge. We will meet with the juvenile and family and walk you through the whole process.
To learn more about the juvenile court process or to get help with a juvenile court case, please call us today to schedule an appointment.
Abuse, Neglect & Dependency and Termination of Parental Rights
One of the most important (if not the most important) cases that our courts hear are cases involving a parents’ rights to care, custody, and control of their own child and to raise their child without the government interfering in their family unit. When the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS), also known as the Department of Social Services (DSS) or Child Protective Services (CPS), investigates and intervenes in a family over allegations of abuse, neglect or dependency, it raises many concerns about protecting families and their Constitutionally protected rights against government interference.
DHHS is required by law to investigate any report alleging that a juvenile is abused, neglected, or dependent. During that investigation, they will interview the family and look at the facts surrounding the report. Based on the investigation of abuse, neglect, and/or dependency, a decision will be made by DHHS to:
- Take no further action and close the investigation; or
- Intervene through counselling and services to remedy the issue; or
- Place the juveniles with a family member or other responsible adult until the concerning issue is resolved; or
- File a Petition in court to take non-secured custody of the juvenile until the court decides an appropriate time to return them to the home.
When DHHS determines that non-secured custody and court action is needed, the juveniles may be placed with a family member, other responsible adult, or possibly in a foster placement. The court will schedule a non-secured custody hearing to determine if continued non-secured custody is necessary. This is done even before the court hears the case regarding the allegations made in the Petition. The court will then hold an adjudicatory hearing where the judge will decide if the juvenile is abused, neglected, and/or dependent. DHHS bears the burden of proving their case.
If the juvenile is adjudicated to be abused, neglected, and/or dependent, the child will likely remain away from the parents until the court determines the issues that brought them into custody have been resolved and that it is safe to reunite the family. The judge will hold regular review hearings and monitor the situation to make sure the parents are addressing the areas of concern. If the parents do not resolve the issues within the time frame the law allows, a decision may be made whether to terminate their parental rights to the child.
The law allows certain parties to file a Petition in court to terminate a parent’s right to their child completely. At trial a judge will determine if the petitioner proved that legal grounds exist to terminate a parent’s rights and, if so, whether it is in the juvenile’s best interests to have the parents’ rights terminated. If the parental rights are terminated, the child would become available for adoption.
The above summary is over-simplified because these are very complex and important areas of law. However, is shows the importance of taking the right steps throughout the process to protect the family. An experienced attorney can make a huge difference in the outcome of a case.
Most attorneys are not experienced in handling juvenile cases. At the Law Office of David E. Sherrill, your case will be handled by an attorney with over 15 years of experience handling juvenile cases as an attorney and former juvenile court judge. We will walk you through the whole process.
If you are seeking assistance with a DHHS/DSS case or are interested in adopting a minor and want to pursue terminating the parents’ rights to do so, please call us today to schedule an appointment.