- Most commitments are for an “indefinite” term, which means at least 6 months but no longer than an adult would face for the same offense, or until the juvenile ages out of the court’s jurisdiction (from 18 to 21, depending on the offense and the juvenile’s age at the time), whichever occurs sooner.
- The Division of Juvenile Justice evaluates the juvenile, develops a placement and treatment plan, and has primary control over when the juvenile will be released.
- Under certain circumstances, and if a juvenile has been committed previously, the court can order a “definite” commitment for up to 2 years.
- The juvenile will be released under a post-release supervision plan, and violation of the terms of that supervision can lead to revocation and re-commitment.
The only Level 3 disposition is “Commitment” of the juvenile to the Division of Juvenile Justice (“the Division”) for placement in a youth development center (formerly called “training school”) for a period of at least six months. Commitment can happen when:
- A Level 3 disposition is ordered as the original disposition under G.S. 7B-2508(f);
- In response to a violation of probation on a Level 2 disposition under G.S. 7B-2510(e) (which authorizes a new disposition at the next higher disposition level); or
- In response to a violation of post-release supervision following an earlier order of commitment under G.S. 7B-2516(c) (discussed in more detail below).
See AOC-J-462 (Level 3 Commitment Order: Delinquent Offense Basis); AOC-J-468 (Level 3 Commitment Order: Probation Violation); AOC-J-467 (Level 3 Commitment Order: Protective Supervision Violation). A juvenile must be at least 10 years old and adjudicated delinquent of a Level 3 punishable offense (or probation/supervision violation) to be committed. See G.S. 7B-2513(a). Commitment may not be ordered for a juvenile who is only adjudicated undisciplined, or found to be abused, neglected, or dependent. See G.S. 7B-2503; 7B-903.
When a juvenile is eligible for either a Level 2 or a Level 3 disposition, the judge has discretion to select the most appropriate disposition, based on the considerations and factors set forth in the disposition statutes. See G.S. 7B-2508(f); In re Robinson, 151 N.C. App. 733 (2002). If Level 3 is the only disposition option provided under the statutes, the court can still order a Level 2 disposition, but only if the judge makes written findings that the juvenile has “extraordinary needs” which justify the lower disposition. See G.S. 7B-2508(e); AOC-J-475 (Level 2 Disposition, see Conclusions of Law #4).
Ordinarily, the court may not order a Level 3 disposition if only a Level 1 or Level 2 disposition is authorized. See In re T.B., 178 N.C. App. 542 (2006). However, there are statutory exceptions to this rule. First, a juvenile who would otherwise only be eligible for a Level 2 disposition under G.S. 7B-2508(f) can be committed if he or she has already been committed previously for a prior offense. See G.S. 7B-2508(d). Second, a juvenile who has previously committed four or more prior offenses may be committed for any new offense, even if the new offense is Minor and would normally only warrant a Level 1 or Level 2 disposition. See G.S. 7B-2508(g).
Upon commitment being ordered, the juvenile will undergo screening, assessment, and drug and alcohol testing, and the results of those examinations along with other records and information about the juvenile will be used by the Division to develop a proposed treatment plan within 30 days of assuming custody over the juvenile. See G.S. 7B-2513(d). The Division must evaluate the juvenile’s progress at least once every six months as long as the juvenile remains committed. See G.S. 7B-2514(a). The Division will determine which youth development center is appropriate for the juvenile (Chatham, Lenoir, Edgecombe, or Stonewall Jackson).
In some cases, the Division may determine that a committed juvenile should instead be placed in a non-YDC facility (e.g., wilderness camp, in-patient psychiatric facility, or group home), which is known as a “community commitment.” Before making a community commitment, the Division must file a motion with the court explaining its proposed plan and giving notice to both the juvenile and the state. See G.S. 7B-2513(e). The court may approve this plan without a hearing unless the juvenile requests one. Id.The statute does not specifically provide the state with a mechanism to demand a hearing, but if the prosecutor has concerns about the safety or wisdom of the proposed community placement, he or she should notify the court in writing and ask the judge to exercise his or her discretion under G.S. 7B-2513(e) to order a hearing.
When a juvenile is committed for a Class A or B1 felony, the Division of Juvenile Justice must also notify the victim and members of the victim’s immediate family that they are entitled to request in writing that they be notified in advance of the juvenile’s scheduled release. See G.S. 7B-2514(d) (requiring notice at least 45 days before the juvenile is released).
The court retains jurisdiction during and after the juvenile’s commitment unless jurisdiction is terminated by court order or the juvenile ages out of the court’s jurisdiction, whichever occurs first. See G.S. 7B-2513(g). Effective December 1, 2019, the maximum possible terms of a juvenile’s commitment are modified as follows:
- Offenses Committed Before Age 16
Under G.S. 7B-2513(a1), the previous age limits for a juvenile’s maximum commitment term are applicable to offenses committed by a juvenile prior to age 16.
- Offenses Committed At Age 16
G.S. 7B-2513(a2) provides that a commitment term for an offense committed at age 16 may not exceed the juvenile’s 19th birthday.
- Offenses Committed At Age 17
G.S. 7B-2513(a3) provides that a commitment term for an offense committed at age 17 may not exceed the juvenile’s 20th birthday.
- Maximum Commitment
G.S. 7B-2513(a4) sets forth the existing rule that a juvenile’s maximum commitment term may not exceed the maximum adult sentence for the same offense unless the Division determines that the commitment should be extended to continue a plan of care or treatment, as provided by G.S. 7B-2515.
Type/Length of Commitment
- Indefinite Commitment
The majority of commitment dispositions are an “indefinite commitment,” meaning that the term of commitment is for an indefinite period of time. See G.S. 7B-2513. While every commitment must be for at least six months, the total length of the commitment will normally be determined by Division staff based on the juvenile’s characteristics, performance during commitment, progress at rehabilitation, etc. The judge’s commitment order must specify an absolute maximum length of commitment (age 18, 19, 20, or 21 depending on age and offense as described above – see G.S. 7B-2513), and specify the time before which the juvenile must be given notice and an opportunity for a hearing on any proposal by the Division to extend the juvenile’s commitment beyond either (i) the maximum time an adult could face for the same offense, or (ii) the juvenile’s 18th birthday, if extended commitment is an option in the case (see below).
- Definite Commitment
The only provision for a definite commitment is in G.S. 7B-2513(b), which allows the court to order commitment for a specified term of at least 6 months and not more than 2 years, but only when the juvenile: (i) is age 14 or older; (ii) has been adjudicated delinquent previously for two or more felony offenses; and (iii) has been committed previously to a youth development center.
- Extended Commitment
Ordinarily, a juvenile may not be held in commitment for a period of time that is longer than an adult would face in prison for the same offense (or 6 months, if the maximum time an adult would face is less than 6 months). See G.S. 7B-2513(a). Similarly, juveniles ordinarily may not be held in commitment past their 18th birthday, although for certain higher-level felonies juveniles can potentially be held until their 19th, 20th, or 21st birthday, depending on the offense and the juvenile’s age at the time. See G.S. 7B-2513(a); 2515(a).
However, the Division may “extend” a juvenile’s commitment for a period of time longer than an adult would face, or beyond the juvenile’s 18th birthday (when statutorily permitted), if the Division decides that the juvenile needs additional treatment or rehabilitation and an extension of commitment will promote the protection of the public. See G.S. 7B-2515(a). Before implementing an extended commitment, the Division of Juvenile Justice must notify the juvenile and his or her parent, guardian or custodian in writing of the proposed additional commitment period and treatment plan at least 30 days prior to the juvenile’s 18thbirthday or end of the maximum term of commitment he or she would face in custody as an adult. See In re J.L.H., 230 N.C. App. 214 (2013) (must be in writing – oral notice of hearing on extended commitment insufficient). Those persons may request a hearing, and after conducting a review, the court may modify or affirm the Division’s decision to extend the commitment. See G.S. 7B-2515(b), (c).
Effective December 1, 2019, the notification requirements and procedures for extended commitment are modified as follows:
- Offenses Committed Before Age 16
G.S. 7B-2515(a) was amended to make the existing rules requiring written notice of an extended commitment applicable only to offenses committed by a juvenile prior to age 16.
- Offenses Committed At Age 16
G.S. 7B-2515(a1) requires that written notice of an extended commitment must be provided to the juvenile and the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian at least 30 days before the end of the maximum commitment period or 30 days before the juvenile’s 19th birthday. The notice must include the proposed additional commitment period, the basis for the proposed extended commitment, and the plan for future care or treatment.
- Offenses Committed At Age 17
G.S. 7B-2515(a2) requires that written notice of an extended commitment must be provided to the juvenile and the juvenile’s parent, guardian, or custodian at least 30 days before the end of the maximum commitment period or 30 days before the juvenile’s 20th birthday. The notice must include the proposed additional commitment period, the basis for the proposed extended commitment, and the plan for future care or treatment.
- Release Date
Under G.S. 7B-2514, and subject to the minimum/maximum terms (and possible extensions of commitment) discussed above, the Division is required to release a juvenile under a post-release supervision plan (discussed below) at least 90 days prior to the following:
- completion of a definite term of commitment, which includes credit for time spent on post-release supervision under G.S. 7B-2514(f);
- the juvenile’s 21st birthday if the juvenile was committed for an offense that would be first-degree murder, first-degree forcible rape, or first-degree forcible sexual offense if committed by an adult;
- the juvenile’s 19th birthday if the juvenile was committed for an offense that would be a Class B1, B2, C, D, or E felony if committed by an adult, other than an offense set forth in G.S. 7B-1602(a) (first-degree murder, first-degree forcible rape, or first-degree forcible sexual offense if committed by an adult); or
- the juvenile’s 18th birthday if the juvenile was committed for an offense other than an offense that would be a Class A, B1, B2, C, D, or E felony if committed by an adult.
- Planning and Release
See G.S. 7B-2514. Except in the case of a definite commitment under G.S. 7B-2513(b), discussed above, the Division of Juvenile Justice usually determines when, after the 6-month minimum term, the juvenile should be released. The Division must develop a release plan that provides for at least 90 days, but not more than one year, of post-release supervision. The written plan must be provided to the court which ordered the commitment. A juvenile on post-release supervision is supervised by a juvenile court counselor (similar to the way a juvenile is monitored on probation). At the conclusion of the prescribed time period, post-release supervision is terminated by court order.
See G.S. 7B-2516. On motion of the court counselor or on its own motion, the court may hold a hearing to review the juvenile’s performance on post-release supervision. If, after notice and hearing (juvenile has a right to counsel at this hearing), the court determines by the greater weight of the evidence that the juvenile has violated the terms of his or her post-release supervision, the court may revoke the supervision and the juvenile will be returned to the custody of the Division. This revocation is for an indefinite commitment with a minimum term of at least 90 days, and a maximum term of the juvenile’s 18th, 19th, or 21st birthday, depending on the offense for which the juvenile was originally committed.