Juvenile Law Bulletin #2021/01

Including Young Children in Delinquency Jurisdiction: Issues of Infancy and Capacity

Monday, February 22, 2021

A child as young as 6 can be a respondent in a delinquency proceeding in North Carolina’s juvenile justice system. This is often referred to as the “minimum age” of juvenile jurisdiction. As potential respondents in a delinquency proceeding, these young children can be

  • taken into custody;
  • interrogated by police;
  • remanded to nonsecure or secure custody;
  • subject to an adjudicatory hearing to determine whether they are responsible for the alleged act of delinquency; and
  • ordered to comply with a range of dispositional options that can include probation, community service, restitution, intermittent confinement in juvenile detention, and out-of-home placement. 

Involvement of young children in this range of legal proceedings raises several questions, including:

  • Is there a place for an infancy defense in delinquency proceedings?
  • What is the role of a respondent in a delinquency proceeding?
  • What abilities are necessary to function competently in that role?
  • At what age do children gain the abilities needed to have sufficient capacity to function as respondents in delinquency proceedings?

This bulletin addresses these four questions and discusses the potential legal and legislative remedies that may be available to address cases in which a child is incapable of proceeding due to developmental immaturity or a child raises an infancy defense. 


Download (pdf, 362.40 KB)