Bill would give easier access to juvenile records
Posted April 13, 2009
Raleigh, N.C. — A bill in the state Senate would give judges access to part of a juvenile's record, which is generally sealed.
"We've had a lot of serious cases come up in recent years, where if this information was available to the court, we might have seen a different outcome," said Sen. Floyd McKissick, D-Durham.
Existing law permits judges to look at a juvenile's record for limited purposes during sentencing in Superior Court.
McKissick has sponsored Senate Bill 984, which would allow judges to view a summary of any serious offenses by a juvenile as far back as 18 months. It does not include information about family history, school history or mental history.
"We are only talking about doing this when a person has been charged with a felony or very serious offense misdemeanor," McKissick said. "But if someone is a habitual juvenile offender, a judge needs to know that."
The bill was being studied in a Senate judiciary committee.
District Judge Marcia Morey, who presides over both juvenile and adult court in Durham County, supports the bill.
"For a judge to set bond or to accept a plea bargain, I think it's important for community safety to know the whole picture," she said. "We are not talking about minor offenses. We are not talking about juveniles who have just had a scrape with the law."
Juvenile defender Eric Zogry, however, said the idea goes against the values of a system designed to give people a second chance.
"It questions why would you even be charged as a juvenile if that can be used against you in a plea negation and whether or not you are released from jail," Zogry said.
He said he has other concerns as well.
"It has the potential of punishing them more than once," he said.