In re K.H., 281 N.C. App. 259 (2022)

  • Facts: A petition alleging a neglected 10-month-old juvenile was filed by DSS based on lack of proper care and supervision and an injurious environment due to substance use by the parents and overdoses in the juvenile’s home by grandmother. At the adjudicatory hearing, testimony was received from the DSS social worker, a paramedic, a police officer, and an employee of a drug screening company. Objections to the admission of the child’s and both parents’ positive drug test results were made. The court allowed the admission of the results with the testimony of the employee of the drug screening company, who the court determined was an expert about how tests were performed and in analyzing the results. Evidence showed the juvenile was crawling and pulling up and that there were drugs and drug paraphernalia in the home. The juvenile was adjudicated neglected, and the initial dispositional order continued custody of the juvenile with DSS. Parents appeal.
  • Hearsay evidence is excluded unless it meets a statutory or rules of evidence exception. Rule 803(6) allows for a business records exception, which includes a report of conditions or diagnoses made at or near the time or from information transmitted by a person with knowledge if the record is kept in the course of regularly conducted business activities and it was the regular practice of that business to make the report. A business record does not need to be authenticated by the person who made it and may be authenticated by testimony from the records’ custodian or other qualified witness or by an affidavit or document under seal that is made by the records’ custodian or other qualified witness. An other qualified witness is someone who is familiar with the business entries and the system that they are made.
    • The employee of the drug screen company was a qualified witness. He was the custodian of the company’s records, which the company maintains under its policy for 12 months. He testified to the process of collecting the sample, the chain of custody of the sample when sent to an outside lab, and the receipt of the lab report. Although he did not personally perform the drug test, which was sent to an outside lab, he was familiar with the business entries and system under which they are made. The testimony showed the records were made by someone with knowledge and were transmitted and retained in the course company’s and outside lab’s regularly conducted business activities. There was no error in admitting the drug test reports.
  • For a juvenile to be adjudicated neglected based on an injurious environment, there must be evidence that there is harm of a substantial risk of harm to the juvenile. The positive drug test results (marijuana, meth, opiates, morphine, and heroin) for the juvenile demonstrates the juvenile suffered harm. Although a parent’s substance abuse alone is not neglect, unchallenged findings show a substantial risk of harm to the juvenile resulting from the parents’ substance use when he was at risk of exposure to the drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Abuse, Neglect, Dependency
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