In the Matter of S.C., __ N.C.App. __ (September 5, 2023)

Vacated and Remanded

Facts: The juvenile was charged with misdemeanor assault and denied the allegation. The court denied her attorney’s motion to dismiss after the close of the State’s evidence. The juvenile’s attorney then called the juvenile to the stand. The court did not ask the juvenile any questions or engage in any colloquy before the juvenile testified. On direct examination the juvenile stated that she punched the victim in the face. On cross-examination, the juvenile also stated that she pushed the victim. The juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for simple assault.

Opinion: The trial court violated G.S. 7B-2405(4) by allowing the juvenile to testify without the court first advising her of her privilege against self-incrimination. G.S. 7B-2405 places an affirmative duty on the court to protect the rights of the juvenile, including the privilege against self-incrimination. At the very least, some colloquy must occur between the court and the juvenile before the juvenile testifies to ensure that the juvenile understands their right against self-incrimination. The juvenile’s testimony was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt because she incriminated herself by admitting that she either pushed or punched the victim. The State conceded reversible error in this case.

Juvenile Rights
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