In the Matter of J.B., ___ N.C.App. ____ (Sept. 18, 2018)

Reversed and Remanded

The trial court erred in failing to advise the juvenile of his right against self-incrimination before he testified and incriminated himself during an adjudication hearing. The juvenile was charged with assault on a government employee after allegedly throwing a milk carton at a teacher and hitting her in the face with it. Defense counsel called the juvenile as a witness and, on direct examination, the juvenile admitted to throwing the milk carton at the teacher out of frustration and intending to hit her with it. After closing arguments, the trial judge informed the juvenile that he had forgotten to advise him of his right against self-incrimination prior to his testimony and asked if the juvenile understood that right. Pursuant to the plain language of G.S. 7B-2405, there is an affirmative duty on the trial court to protect the enumerated rights set forth in that statute, including the privilege against self-incrimination. In re J.R.V., 212 N.C. App. 205 (2011). This includes at least some colloquy between the trial court and the juvenile to ensure that the juvenile understands his right against self-incrimination before choosing to testify. The trial court committed error in asking whether the juvenile understood his right against self-incrimination after he had already testified. This was not harmless error because his testimony was incriminating and prejudicial.  

Juvenile Rights
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