In the Matter of J.R.V., 212 N.C. App. 205 (2011)


Before a juvenile respondent testifies in his or her own delinquency case, the court must inform the juvenile of the privilege against self-incrimination and determine that the juvenile understands the privilege. In this case, the juvenile was alleged to be delinquent for committing misdemeanor larceny in relation to stolen farm equipment. After the State’s evidence at the adjudication hearing, the juvenile testified that he was not involved in the larceny and that he had not seen anyone else steal the farm equipment. The juvenile was adjudicated delinquent and placed on probation. He argued on appeal that the trial court erred by failing to inform the juvenile, before he testified, of his privilege against self-incrimination. The Court of Appeals agreed and held that G.S. 7B-2405, by stating that the trial court “shall” protect a juvenile’s delineated rights, places an affirmative duty on the trial court to protect a juvenile’s right against self-incrimination, which cannot be satisfied by doing nothing. The court said, “the statute requires, at the very 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 at his adjudication hearing.” The court went on, however, to find that the trial court’s failure to advise the juvenile had not been prejudicial (“was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt”), because all of the juvenile’s testimony was either consistent with the State’s evidence or favorable to the juvenile. Because the trial court’s error “implicates the juvenile's constitutional right against self-incrimination, the error is prejudicial unless it was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Juvenile Rights
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