504.2Juvenile Identification Procedures

Last Updated: 12/01/23

Key Concepts

  • Fingerprints, photographs, and other identification procedures for juveniles usually requires a nontestimonial identification order issued by the court
  • In some circumstances, the taking of fingerprints, photographs or DNA samples may be mandated by statute, in which case no separate court order is required.

Nontestimonial Identification Orders

Except as described in Section B below, the taking of photographs, fingerprints, blood samples, and other nontestimonial identification procedures can only be conducted on a juvenile pursuant to a court order. See G.S. 7B-2103 through 7B-2109; see also AOC-J-204 (Application for Nontestimonial Identification Order—Juvenile Suspect); AOC-J-205 (Nontestimonial Identification Order—Juvenile Suspect). Willful violation of the requirement to obtain a court order under this provision is a Class 1 misdemeanor. G.S. 7B-2109.

A nontestimonial order may only be issued based upon an affidavit which establishes: (i) probable cause to believe that an offense has been committed which would be a felony if committed by an adult; (ii) reasonable grounds to believe that the juvenile committed that offense; and (iii) that the results of the identification procedure will be of material aid in determining whether the juvenile committed the offense. See G.S. 7B-2105(a); see also G.S. 7B-2105(b) (nontestimonial identification order for a blood sample).

G.S. 7B-2106 provides that upon a showing that the grounds stated above do exist, the court may issue a nontestimonial identification order by following the same procedures which would apply in the case of an adult under G.S.15A-274 (Issuance of order); 15A-275 (Modification of order); 15A-276 (Failure to appear); 15A-277 (Service of order); 15A-278 (Contents of order); 15A-279 (Implementation of order); 15A-280 (Return); and 15A-282 (Copy of results to person involved). For more information about obtaining and executing such an order, see the related entry on Pretrial – Nontestimonial Identification Orders.

Other Statutory Identification Procedures

However, in certain circumstances it is statutorily mandated that a juvenile’s photograph, fingerprints, or DNA be taken, so in the following situations no court order is required before conducting the identification procedure: 

Juvenile "Show-up"

A one-on-one show-up between a victim and a juvenile suspect may be conducted without a nontestimonial identification order if it occurs shortly after an offense has been committed, is not unduly suggestive, and does not otherwise violate due process. See In re Stallings, 318 N.C. 565 (1986); In re M.L.A., 205 N.C. App. 321 (2010) (unpublished).  Pursuant to a 2019 amendment to G.S. 15A-284.52(c1)(3), any juvenile aged 10 or older who is reported to have commited a nondivertible offense or common law robbery must be photographed at the time and place that such a show-up is conducted. The photograph shall be retained or disposed in accordance with the existing requirements found in G.S. 7B-2108

Upon Filing a Petition

It is mandatory for a law enforcement officer or agency to fingerprint and photograph a juvenile if all of the following are true:

  1. The juvenile was 10 years of age or older when the juvenile allegedly committed a “nondivertible” offense (see G.S. 7B-1701 for a complete list of nondivertible offenses, including: (1) first- and second degree murder; (2) first- or second-degree rape or sexual offense; (3) first- or second-degree arson; (4) any violation of Article 5 (controlled substances) of Chapter 90 that would constitute a felony if committed by an adult; (5) first-degree burglary; (6) crime against nature; and (7) any felony that involves the willful infliction of serious bodily injury on another or that was committed by use of a deadly weapon);
  2. A complaint has been prepared for filing as a petition; and
  3. The juvenile is in the physical custody of law enforcement or the Division of Juvenile Justice of the Department of Public Safety.

If all three of these circumstances exist, then fingerprinting and photographing of the juvenile is statutorily mandated, and therefore no court order is required. See G.S. 7B-2102(a). These prints must be destroyed if the juvenile is not adjudicated delinquent, or if there is no petition filed within one year. G.S. 7B-2102(e).

Upon Adjudication of a Felony

If it was not done previously pursuant to G.S. 7B-2102(a), or if it was done previously but subsequently destroyed pursuant to G.S. 7B-2102(e), a law enforcement officer or agency must fingerprint and photograph a juvenile after he or she has been adjudicated delinquent for a felony offense that was committed when the juvenile was 10 years of age or older. Again, a court order is not necessary for this fingerprinting and photographing. See G.S. 7B-2102(b).

Upon Commitment

A county juvenile detention facility must photograph any juvenile who is committed to the facility, and make the photograph available to the Division of Juvenile Justice. See G.S. 7B-2102(a1). 

Upon Transfer to Superior Court

If a juvenile’s case is transferred to superior court for prosecution as an adult, the juvenile must fingerprinted, and the fingerprints shall be sent to the SBI. See G.S. 7B-2201(a). 

Transfer, Use, and Retention of Fingerprints

Fingerprints must be taken in a proper format for transfer to the SBI and FBI, and must be submitted to the SBI for entry into the AFIS database to be used for all investigative purposes. See G.S. 7B-2102(c). However, fingerprints and photographs taken pursuant to these statutes are also subject to certain confidentiality protections; they are not public records, and must be kept separately from the clerk’s other records (but the SBI is not required to store juvenile prints separately from their other electronic records). See G.S. 7B-2102(d).

DNA Sample 

A DNA sample must be taken from the juvenile if the juvenile’s case is transferred to superior court for any offense specified in G.S. 15A-266.3A which provides for the taking of DNA samples upon the arrest of an adult for certain offenses. See G.S. 7B-2201(b).

Portions of this entry were excerpted from the 2017 North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual, Chapters 2 and 11, by David W. Andrews and John Rubin.