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August 23, 2005

Still more on state approaches to juvenile adjudications

Responding to posts about recent rulings from Oregon and from Ohio concerning whether juvenile adjudications come within the "prior conviction" exception to the Apprendi/Blakely rule, a helpful North Carolina reader provided this helpful report on how these issues are playing out in the Tar Heel State:

In North Carolina, we have an aggravating factor in felony sentencing for defendants with any prior adjudication as a juvenile for an offense that, if committed by an adult, would be a Class A through Class E felony. Finding of an aggravating factor permits the court to impose a sentence from the aggravated range in the sentencing grid cell where the offender's class of offense and prior record level place him.

In our "Blakely fix" legislation from this session of our General Assembly, North Carolina left determination of that aggravating factor in the hands of the judge, assuming it would fit the prior conviction exception.  Other statutory aggravating factors now must be found by a jury or admitted by the defendant before they can be weighed against any mitigating factors in determining whether or not to impose a non-presumptive sentence.

On August 2nd, the N.C. Court of Appeals (our intermediate appellate division) in State v. Yarell, No. COA03-1454 (N.C. App. Aug. 2, 2005) (available here), went in the same direction as Oregon's Supreme Court, and held that prior juvenile adjudications do not fit the prior conviction exception. The decision (relevant part in only the last four paragraphs) turns solely on the term "conviction" and its application in our juvenile statutes.  N.C. Gen. Stat. 7B-2412 states that "[a]n adjudication that a juvenile is delinquent or commitment of a juvenile to the Department for placement in a youth development center shall neither be considered conviction of any criminal offense nor cause the juvenile to forfeit any citizenship rights."

August 23, 2005 at 03:00 AM | Permalink

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