Delinquency

1. My child has been charged with a crime. Can I hire CFCR to represent my child?

CFCR’s Children’s Defense Team serves as the court-appointed attorneys for children between the ages of 6 and 16 who are alleged to be delinquent in Mecklenburg County. If your child is between the ages of 6 and 16 and is charged with a crime, an attorney from CFCR will be appointed to represent your child, unless one of the two following situations exists:

 

 

  • There is a conflict of interest between your child and one of our current or former clients. For example, we are not able to represent co-defendants. In this situation, another attorney experienced with Juvenile Court in Mecklenburg County will be appointed to represent your child.
  • Your family chooses to hire a private attorney to represent your child.

2. My child is 16- or 17- years old and has been charged with a crime. Where can we go for help?

In North Carolina, all 16- and 17- year olds who are charged with crimes are treated as adults. Therefore, their case will be handled through the adult criminal justice system. If your child cannot afford an attorney and is accused of a crime that could result in a jail sentence or suspended sentence, he/she is eligible to be represented by the Public Defender’s office.

 

The phone number for Mecklenburg County’s Public Defender office is 704-686-0900. For the North Carolina Public Defender Directory, go to this website.

3. The school resource officer told me that my child (ages 6 – 15) got into trouble at school and is being charged with a crime. What happens next?

If this incident is the first time your child has been involved with law enforcement and the alleged offense is minor, the school resource officer can refer your child to a diversion program (see Frequently Asked Question numbers 8-10 of this section for more information on diversion programs). If the alleged offense is more serious or your child has previously been through the diversion program, you will likely receive a call or a letter from a Juvenile Court Counselor from the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice requesting an intake meeting.

4. Why do I need to meet with a Juvenile Court Counselor for an intake meeting?

The intake meeting allows you and your child to share information that may help the Juvenile Court Counselor determine if the allegations are sufficiently serious enough to warrant court action. If the allegations do not result in court action, the Juvenile Court Counselor can refer you to community resources to help your situation. We recommend that you bring relevant documents like mental health assessments and information from school, such as grades, IEP documents, and behavior plans to the meeting with you. If your child is currently receiving a mental health service, such as therapy, we suggest that you bring the person who has been working with your child to the meeting.

There is a short window for this meeting to occur once the Juvenile Court Counselor receives a complaint from law enforcement. The Juvenile Court Counselor only has 15 days, with the option of a 15 day extension for a maximum of 30 days, to meet with you and your child and to gather all relevant information to make a decision regarding the allegations.

5. Will my child have a lawyer present to represent them during the intake meeting?

Typically, no. Since a decision has not been made regarding whether charges should be filed, CFCR has not been appointed by the time intake occurs. If you hire your own lawyer, then that individual may attend the intake appointment.

6. What does the Juvenile Court Counselor consider when making a decision?

The intake process should include:

  1. Interviews with the complainant or victim if the victim is not the complainant;
  2. Interviews with the juvenile and the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian;
  3. Interviews with persons known to have relevant information about the juvenile or the juvenile’s family.
  4. Interviews should be conducted in person unless it is necessary to conduct them by telephone.
  5. Reviewing school, mental health, and social services records.

7. What happens after the intake meeting?

There are several options that could happen:

 

  • The case could be closed;
  • The case could be diverted; or
  • The case could be approved for court.

Some charges must be approved for court. These charges include murder, first or second degree rape, first or second degree sexual offense, arson, all felony drug charges, first degree burglary, crime against nature, or a felony which involves the willful infliction of serious bodily injury upon or which was committed by use of a deadly weapon.

8. What is a diversion plan?

A diversion plan is an effort to prevent your child’s matter from going to court. Instead of immediately sending your child to court, a diversion plan could include a referral to community resources such as victim-offender mediation, community service, counseling, or a teen court program. The diversion plan shall not exceed six months and is supervised by a Juvenile Court Counselor.

9. Is a diversion plan filed with the court?

No. A diversion plan is an opportunity to avoid having the case go to court.

 

10. If my child is placed on a diversion plan, can my child be sent to court?

Yes, if your child does not comply with the diversion plan, the Juvenile Court Counselor can approve your child’s charge(s) for court.

11. What happens if my child is approved for court?

All children under the age of 16 are considered indigent and are automatically appointed an attorney, unless your child is alleged to be undisciplined. Council for Children’s Rights serves as the court appointed attorneys for children in Mecklenburg County, unless one of the two following situations exists:

  1. There is a conflict of interest between your child and one of our current or former clients. For example, we are not able to represent co-defendants. In this situation, another attorney experienced with Juvenile Court in Mecklenburg County will be appointed to represent your child.
  2. Your family chooses to hire a private attorney to represent your child.

12. Why won’t my child’s attorney do what I want?

The attorney was appointed to represent only the child, not the parent or legal guardian. The attorney will provide advice and counsel to the child during the representation, but ultimately the child makes the important decisions, such as whether to accept a plea offer or set the matter for trial.

13. My child wants to get a job but has been involved with juvenile court. Does my child have to share this with a potential employer?

In juvenile court, youth are considered adjudicated, not convicted. Therefore, they can honestly answer “no” to any question asked by the potential employer that asks if they have been convicted, plead guilty, or found guilty of an offense.

14. My child was placed on juvenile probation. What does that mean?

Juvenile probation is always supervised by a Juvenile Court Counselor. The Juvenile Court Counselor is responsible for ensuring that the child complies with the court orders the judge made during the court hearing. The Juvenile Court Counselor is required to make face-to-face contact with your child at school, and at home to make sure he or she is following the court orders.

15. As a parent, what am I responsible for if my child is involved with juvenile court?

Under the law, you are required to attend all scheduled hearings. You may be ordered to attend parental responsibility classes; cooperate with medical, surgical, psychiatric, or psychological treatment for your child or yourself; follow court orders, including helping your child to follow the court’s orders; or pay restitution or other expenses.

16. I have been told that my child was interrogated by school officials concerning a suspected school violation. Do I have a right to be present during school interrogations?

Generally, no, you do not have the right to be present during school interrogations. School officials, such as principals, have the ability to question and search students without the parent being present whenever they have reasonable grounds to believe that a violation of the law and/or Code of Student Conduct has occurred. However, the questioning and search cannot be excessively intrusive and must be reasonable in relation to the nature of the suspected violation. If, however, the person conducting the questioning and/or search is a school resource officer, this individual is a law enforcement officer and is held to a higher standard than school officials. In this circumstance, parents have the right to be present during questioning. Because the Fourth Amendment protects citizens against self-incrimination, your child does not have to speak to an officer nor write a statement. Your child also has the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures by an officer.

17. What should my child do if he/she is arrested at school?

If your child is arrested at school and told that he/she cannot leave, your child should ask for their parent and a lawyer immediately. After the encounter is over, your child should write down everything he/she can remember, including the date, time, officer’s name, witnesses’ names, and what happened. He/she should also take photos of any injuries.

18. If an officer violates my child’s rights, what can I do?

Your child should tell their defense attorney, if he/she has one. You can file an internal affairs complaint with the officer’s police department, or sheriff’s department.

 

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