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In re Phillips

March 03, 1998

IN THE MATTER OF: KRYSTAL NICOLE PHILLIPS


Appeal by juvenile from order entered 3 January 1997 by Judge Edgar B. Gregory in Ashe County District Court. Heard in the Court of Appeals 28 January 1998.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Martin, Mark D., Judge.

The juvenile, Krystal Nicole Phillips (Phillips), appeals from order adjudicating her a delinquent.

The evidence presented to the trial court tended to show the juvenile, Krystal Nicole Phillips, attended Beaver Creek High School (Beaver Creek), a public school in North Carolina. On the morning of 4 October 1996, Howard Pierce (Pierce), Beaver Creek's assistant principal, observed a bank bag containing the school's cash and checks stored under a counter in the school office. During lunch, Pierce saw Phillips enter the school office and approach the main counter while a secretary left the bank bag unattended. When the secretary returned, Phillips exited the office.

The secretary then discovered the bank bag and money were missing. When Pierce began to search for the missing money, he observed Phillips leaving the girls' restroom. Pierce and a female teacher entered the restroom and found the bank bag in a trash can. After discovering the empty bank bag, Pierce talked with Phillips and requested she lead him to the money. Phillips then went inside a bathroom stall and returned with the cash and checks.

Because Phillips was not given permission to remove the bank bag and its contents, school authorities suspended her from school for ten days. After the suspension, Phillips returned to school.

On 5 December 1996 Ashe County Clerk of Superior Court issued a juvenile summons and petition alleging Phillips unlawfully, wilfully, and feloniously stole, took or carried away coins, cash and checks valued at $5,277.00 belonging to Beaver Creek. At the hearing on 3 January 1997, the trial court denied the juvenile's motions to dismiss the petition based on double jeopardy and to suppress the juvenile's statements to Pierce. In an order issued 3 January 1997, the trial court determined the juvenile committed larceny. As a result, the trial court adjudicated Phillips a juvenile delinquent and placed her on juvenile probation for one year.

On appeal, the juvenile contends the trial court erred by (1) denying the juvenile's motion to dismiss; (2) denying the juvenile's motion to suppress her inculpatory statements; and (3) finding the State proved beyond a reasonable doubt that the juvenile committed larceny.

I.

The juvenile first contends the trial court erred by denying her motion to dismiss. Specifically, the juvenile contends the trial court's adjudication placed her in double jeopardy because the public school had previously punished her for the same offense by suspending her from school for ten days.

The Double Jeopardy Clause of the United States Constitution prevents any person from being punished more than once for the same offense. U.S. Const., amend. V. The Double Jeopardy Clause "protects . . . against the imposition of multiple criminal punishments for the same offense . . . when such occurs in successive proceedings." Hudson v. U.S., 118 S. Ct. 488, 493, 139 L. Ed. 2d 450, ___ (1997) (emphasis in original) (citations omitted). The protection of the Double Jeopardy Clause applies to juvenile proceedings and attaches when the Judge, as trier of fact, begins to hear evidence. Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519, 531, 95 S. Ct. 1779, 1787, 44 L. Ed. 2d. 346, 356-357 (1975).

However, under North Carolina law, suspension and expulsion "from a school for violation of school policies not punishment so as to invoke the protection of constitutional double jeopardy restrictions." State v. Davis, 126 N.C. App. 415, 421, 485 S.E.2d 329, 333 (1997). Instead, the primary goal of suspension and expulsion is to protect the student body. Id. at 420, 485 S.E.2d at 332. "Any punishment that a particular child suffers is merely incidental to the purpose of protecting the school community as a whole." Id.

In the present case, the trial court did not err by denying the juvenile's motion to dismiss. Because the juvenile was only suspended from school, double jeopardy restrictions do not prevent the trial court from imposing its sentence. Accordingly, the juvenile's contention is without merit.

II.

The juvenile further contends the trial court erred by denying her motion to suppress her inculpatory statements and the fruits thereof obtained during ...


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