520.1Juvenile Disposition

Calculating Disposition Level
Last Updated: 12/01/23

Key Concepts

  • The class of the offense (Violent, Serious, or Minor) and the juvenile’s delinquency history level (Low, Medium, or High) will dictate which disposition levels (Level 1, 2, or 3) are available to the court.
  • The court must impose a disposition which corresponds to the prescribed level, unless a statutory exception (chronic offender, prior commitment, extraordinary needs, or gang activity) applies.

Overview - Determining the Dispositions Level

The disposition options which are available in a given case depend primarily on two factors: the offense classification of the delinquent conduct (Violent, Serious, or Minor) and the juvenile’s delinquency history level (Low, Medium, or High). See G.S. 7B-2508. In much the same way that an adult offender would be sentenced according to the structured sentencing table in G.S. 15A-1340.17 (e.g., a Class G offense and a History Level of IV), the dispositional options in a juvenile case are dictated by the intersection of the offense classification and the juvenile’s delinquency history, as summarized in the following Disposition Chart:


                  Delinquency History Level


Low (0-1 point)

Medium (2-3 points)

High (4 or more points)


Level 2 or 3

Level 3

Level 3


Level 1 or 2

Level 2

Level 2 or 3


Level 1

Level 1 or 2

Level 2

See G.S. 7B-2508(f). Based on the options provided in the table for the intersection of that offense class and delinquency history level, the court must order a Level 1, Level 2, or Level 3 disposition. The various options available to the court under each different level are addressed in the next Juvenile entry – Disposition Options

Offense Classification - G.S. 7B-2508(a)

Juvenile offenses are classified as follows:

  • Violent:     Class A through E felonies
  • Serious:     Class F through I felonies and Class A1 misdemeanors
  • Minor:     Class 1, 2, and 3 misdemeanors

The first step at every disposition is to correctly determine the single highest offense that is the basis for the disposition. Multiple adjudications in the same session of court must be consolidated for one disposition, which is imposed based the most serious offense. It is also important to distinguish between standard disposition hearings and hearings on violation of probation or post-release supervision, since different disposition rules apply for violation hearings. For more information, see the related entry on Juvenile Probation.  

Practice Pointer

Simplified plea offers
The fact that all criminal offenses in juvenile court are reduced down to three broad categories for disposition purposes (Violent, Serious, or Minor) can be helpful when trying to negotiate a plea agreement that satisfies both the state and the juvenile. For example, as long as the circumstances support the lesser charge, there is little difference for disposition purposes between a charge of Assault Inflicting Serious Bodily Injury (Class F felony) and Assault Inflicting Serious Injury (Class A1 misdemeanor) because both offenses fall into the “Serious” category. But the difference between a felony or misdemeanor adjudication might be very significant to the juvenile for other reasons, such as remaining eligible to play school sports. If the reduced charge is not a lesser-included offense of the original charge in the petition, then the prosecutor will need to file a new petition before entering the plea. For more information, see the related entry on Petitions – Defects and Amendments.

Delinquency History Level - G.S. 7B-2507

The second step is to determine whether the juvenile has a Low, Medium, or High delinquency history level, which is based on any prior delinquency adjudications and the juvenile’s probation status when the current offense was committed. See AOC-J-469 (Worksheet – Delinquency History Level). In this context, “prior” adjudication means before the date of the adjudication for the current offense. See G.S. 7B-2507(a). Prior adjudications are assigned points as follows:

  • Each prior adjudication of a Violent offense:   4 points

            (Class A through E felony) 

  • Each prior adjudication of a Serious offense:   2 points

            (Class F through I felony or Class A1 misdemeanor)   

  • Each prior adjudication of a Minor offense:    1 point

            (Class 1, 2, or 3 misdemeanor)                               

  • Juvenile was on probation when current offense was committed:  2 points

Note that if the juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for more than one offense in a single session of district court, only the adjudication for the offense with the highest point total is used. This rule applies even if the adjudications were for unrelated offenses that occurred on different dates. The key factor is whether they were adjudicated on the same date.

Points are not assigned for the offense for which a disposition is currently being ordered. Two points are added, however, if the offense for which a disposition is being ordered was committed while the juvenile was already on probation. (The juvenile’s probation status when the juvenile committed any prior offenses does not result in the assignment of additional points.) Once the points are totaled, the juvenile’s delinquency history level is classified as follows:

  • Low:                                           0 – 1 point
  • Medium:                                     2 – 3 points
  • High:                                     4 or more points

Effective as of December 1, 2019, G.S. 7B-2507 has been amended to say that any adult convictions being used in a juvenile disposition are scored and counted the same way that they would be if they were adjudications in juvenile court (e.g., 2 points for an adult conviction of a Class H felony). Additionally, the rest of the statute has been updated to clarify that the rules apply to both adjudications and convictions for issues such scoring multiple adjudications/convictions from a single court session, classifying adjudications/offenses from out-of-state, and proving prior adjudications/convictions. Id.

The state has the burden of proving the prior adjudications by a preponderance of the evidence. See G.S. 7B-2507(f). This can be accomplished by stipulation of the parties, through originals or copies of the prior court records themselves, through records maintained by the Division of Juvenile Justice or other state agency, or any other method found by the court to be reliable. See G.S. 7B-2507(f)

Practice Pointer

Records of prior adjudications
Juvenile records are not publicly available the same way that adult offender records are, so the prosecutor will not have a traditional ACIS/DCI/CJLEADS printout in the case file. In most cases, all the information that the prosecutor needs will be included in the Predisposition Report prepared by the court counselor before the disposition hearing, and the records themselves will be in the courtroom at the time of the hearing. If not, the prosecutor will need to contact the court counselor directly or go see the juvenile clerk of court ahead of time to obtain records of any prior adjudications. The defense will usually stipulate to the prior record, and a failure to object is also treated as a stipulation. See In re D.R.H., 194 N.C. App. 166 (2008).
Additionally, pursuant to Section 16D.4.(y) of the Juvenile Justice Reinvestment Act, prosecutors and defense attorneys should now have access to “JWise,” the automatic electronic information management system for juvenile courts. Section 16D.4.(z) required the AOC to implement statewide inquiry access for JWise users that corresponds to the access to juvenile court records authorized by Chapter 7B. 

Exceptions to the Dispositional Chart - G.S. 7B-2508 

  1. Previous Commitment

When the chart authorizes or requires a Level 2 disposition but not a Level 3 disposition, the court nevertheless may order a Level 3 disposition (that is, commit the juvenile to the Division of Juvenile Justice) if the juvenile has ever been committed previously. Since any juvenile who has been committed previously will necessarily have at least a Medium delinquency history, the practical effect of this statute is that if a juvenile has been committed before then he or she can be committed again for any offense at any subsequent disposition hearing. See G.S. 7B-2508(d).

  1. History of Chronic Offending

The disposition table in G.S. 7B-2508(f) indicates that a Level 3 disposition is never an option when the court is ordering disposition for a Minor offense, even if the juveniles has a High delinquency history with four or more points. However, pursuant to G.S. 7B-2508(g), the court can order a Level 3 disposition for a Minor offense if the juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent for four or more prior offenses. But in this context, the term “prior” has a slightly different meaning than when it is being used to determine a juvenile’s delinquency history level. Here, a “prior” offense is one that was both committed and adjudicated before commission of the next offense. This means that each of the four or more successive offenses must be one that was committed after adjudication of the preceding offense. 

  1. Extraordinary Needs

When the disposition chart indicates that only a Level 3 disposition may be ordered, the court may order a Level 2 disposition instead if the court makes written findings substantiating that the juvenile has extraordinary needs. Neither the statute nor case law has defined “extraordinary needs.” There is no comparable provision which allows the court to order a Level 3 disposition when only a Level 1 or Level 2 disposition is authorized by statute. See G.S. 7B-2508(e).

  1. Criminal Gang Activity

Effective December 1, 2019, if a juvenile is adjudicated for an offense that was committed as part of criminal gang activity as defined in G.S. 7B-2508.1, the juvenile “shall” receive a disposition one level higher than what would otherwise be ordered under G.S. 7B-2508(f). For example, a juvenile with a Low criminal history who commits a Serious offense would ordinarily receive a Level 1 or Level 2 disposition – but if the offense was committed as part of criminal gang activity, the juvenile must receive a Level 2 or Level 3 disposition. See G.S. 7B-2508(g1).

Portions of this entry were excerpted from the 2017 North Carolina Juvenile Defender Manual, Chapter 13, by David W. Andrews and John Rubin.