In the Matter of R.D., _ N.C. App. __, 776 S.E.2d 685 (2015)


The trial court’s disposition order did not violate G.S. 7B-2513(a), which authorizes a maximum commitment period that does not exceed the maximum possible sentence that any adult could receive for the same offense, without consideration of prior record levels or the existence or nonexistence of aggravating and mitigating factors under structured sentencing. G.S. 7B-2513(a) provides that “[n]o juvenile shall be committed to a [YDC] beyond the minimum six-month commitment for a period of time in excess of the maximum term of imprisonment for which an adult in prior record level VI for felonies or in prior conviction level III for misdemeanors could be sentenced for the same offense[.]” In this case, the juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for the Class I felony of breaking or entering a motor vehicle, for which an adult could be sentenced to a maximum of 21 months in the presumptive range or a maximum of 24 months in the aggravated range. The juvenile was committed for an indefinite period of at least 6 months, but not to exceed his 18th birthday, resulting in a maximum commitment period just short of 24 months. On appeal, he argued that because G.S. 7B-2513(a) does not explicitly reference the maximum aggravated term for an adult, his maximum possible commitment should be limited to the maximum presumptive term for an adult in a prior record level VI, based on the rule of lenity. The appellate court rejected this argument, relying on its holding in In re Carter, 125 N.C. App. 140 (1987), that former G.S. 7A-652 (the predecessor to G.S. 7B-2513(a)) authorized a maximum commitment equivalent to the maximum possible sentence that any adult could receive for the same offense. The court said that its rationale for the holding in Carter – maintaining “judicial flexibility” in juvenile dispositions – applies equally to G.S. 7B-2513(a).


***In a footnote, the court noted that a juvenile’s commitment may, nonetheless, be extended beyond the maximum adult sentence when the Division of Juvenile Justice determines that an extension is necessary to continue the juvenile’s plan of care or treatment. A juvenile must receive written notice of the extension at least 30 days prior to the juvenile’s scheduled release date and may request a hearing to contest the extension. See G.S. 7B-2515.

Commitment to YDC
Maximum Possible Commitment Period
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