In re Harris, 265 N.C. App. 194 (2019)

  • Facts: In 2013, after completing an investigative assessment, DSS substantiated abuse of a 13-year-old juvenile and identified petitioner, who was a caretaker, as the responsible individual. More than 3 years later, in 2017, DSS mailed a letter notifying petitioner of its intent to place him on the Responsible Individuals List (RIL). Petitioner timely filed for judicial review. At the hearing, after the close of DSS’s evidence, petitioner argued that DSS filed the notice too late for petitioner to prepare a defense and was prejudicial. The trial court concluded petitioner should not be placed on the RIL due to DSS’s multi-year failure to comply with the statutory time period to serve petitioner with notice as required by G.S. 7B-320. DSS appealed.
  • Time requirements: The specific time limits (and methods) the DSS director must comply with to initiate the inclusion of an individual’s name on the RIL are established in G.S. 7B-320. They include (1) personal delivery within 5 working days of the completion of the investigative assessment or (2) if personal notice is not made within 15 days and DSS has made diligent efforts to locate the identified individual, by registered or certified mail, return receipt requested to the individual’s last known address. DSS did not provide the notice within the statutory time period or within the 2-year statute of limitations that apply to misdemeanors.
  • Due Process: Petitioner’s argument and the trial court’s determination did not address whether the delay was a jurisdictional defect but instead was based on due process principles. Placement on the RIL deprives an individual of their constitutional liberty interest and requires due process including the right to notice and an opportunity to be heard before such placement.  In re W.B.M., 202 N.C. App. 606 (2010). The 3+ year delay was prejudicial and “deprived petitioner of his ability to mount a defense to preserve his protected liberty interest.” Sl. Op. at 7.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
Responsible Individuals List
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