Article II. Prehearing Procedures


Rule 21: Plea of Guilty in Delinquent and Unruly Cases.

(a) Court's Inquiry of Child. Before accepting a plea of guilty, the court must address the child personally in open court and inform the child of, and determine that the child understands, the following:

(1) The nature of the charge to which the plea is offered and the possible dispositional consequences of the admission; if a specific disposition is the basis of the plea, the child should be informed specifically of the nature of that disposition; and

(2) If the child is not represented by an attorney, that the child has a right to be represented by an attorney at every stage of the proceedings, and that, if necessary, one will be appointed; and

(3) That he has the right to plea not guilty or to persist in that plea if it has already been made, the right to confront and cross-examine adverse witnesses, and the privilege against self-incrimination; and

(4) That if the child pleads guilty, there will not be a trial (except as to the disposition in cases in which disposition is not part of the plea agreement), so that by pleading guilty, the child waives the right to a trial on the merits; and

(5) That if the child pleads guilty, the court may ask the child questions about the offense to which the pleadant was made, and if the child answers these questions under oath on the record and in the presence of the child's attorney, if any, the child's answers may later be used against the child in a prosecution for perjury or false statement.

(b) Determination of Voluntariness of Plea. The court shall not accept a plea of guilty without first, by addressing the child personally in open court, determining that the plea is voluntary and not the result of force or threats or promises apart from a plea bargain agreement. The court shall also inquire as to whether the child's willingness to plead guilty results from prior discussions regarding potential dispositions. If a child stands mute or pleads evasively, a plea of not guilty shall be entered by the court.

(c) Factual Basis for Plea. The court shall not enter a judgment upon a guilty plea or shall not approve an agreed upon disposition without making such inquiry as shall satisfy it that there is a factual basis for the guilty plea.

(d) Agreement on Disposition. If the court accepts a guilty plea pursuant to an agreement on disposition, the court shall approve the provided for disposition. If the court rejects the guilty plea, it shall be null and void.

Advisory Commission Comments.

In subsection (b) of Rule 21, the court is required to inquire about any prior discussions the child may have had regarding potential dispositions. The court should properly make itself aware of such interactions and “bargains,”and of their effect of the child's willingness to plead guilty, before it makes a decision whether to accept any such plea. The court should also ascertain, through this inquiry, with whom any such discussions took place, and whether the child's attorney was present. While it would be within the province of the District Attorney General to initiate such discussions, and possibly within that of Department of Children's Services probation officers, the committee considers that it would represent a clear conflict of interest for any court employee such as a youth services officer to conduct such discussions. See the comments to Rules 2 and 8 for further insight on this issue.

 The court may at any time prior to the beginning of a dispositional hearing permit a plea of guilty to be withdrawn, and if an adjudication has been entered thereon, set aside such adjudication and allow another plea to be substituted for the plea of guilty. In the subsequent adjudicatory hearing, the court may not consider the plea which was withdrawn as an admission. Evidence of a guilty plea, later withdrawn, or of statements made in connection therewith, would not be admissable in any proceeding against the respondent.

Advisory Commission Comments [2012].

The 2012 amendment modifies the original Advisory Commission Comments by substituting the term “Department of Children’s Services” for the term “Department of Correction,”  consistent with statutory changes enacted by the General Assembly.

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