CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Mecklenburg County Sheriff's Office says they're investigating how a 16-year-old juvenile was erroneously released from custody Thursday, accepting full responsibility for the error.
According to a news release from MCSO, the male teen faced additional chargers for motor vehicle offenses, which require prosecution as an adult. Because of this, he was taken from the county Juvenile Detention Center along Spector Drive to the Arrest Processing Center at the central detention center around 5:45 p.m. He was served warrants for the motor vehicle offenses there, and an hour later a magistrate judge set terms and conditions for release on the adult charges. He was then taken back to the Juvenile Detention Center.
MCSO says the teen's family appeared at Detention Center - Central just after 10 p.m. to meet the conditions of release on those adult charges. He was then brought back to the processing center and released just after midnight.
Here's where MCSO says they got it wrong: according to them, the teen was being held in the juvenile detention center under a Secure Custody Order put in place by a Juvenile Court judge, which required the juvenile to be kept in custody. However, the sheriff's office says strict confidentiality requirements pertaining to juvenile records demand those records be kept separate from those of adult offenders, even if a teen faces both juvenile and adult charges. This means MCSO staff handling his release for the adult offense would not have been aware of the juvenile records, which are maintained at the Juvenile Detention Center, nor would they have known he was being held on a Secure Custody Order.
However, MCSO says staff at the juvenile center should not have allowed the teen's return to the Arrest Processing Center in the first place since they were flagged to the Secure Custody Order. Even if the family was able to comply with release orders on the adult charges, Juvenile Detention Center staff should not have authorized his processing out of custody. MCSO staff at the Arrest Processing Center were thus completely unaware of that order and allowed the teen to be released in error.
The teen was eventually safely returned to custody after being arrested by Charlotte-Mecklenburg police, according to an update from MCSO. However, Sheriff Garry L. McFadden promised in a statement "MCSO will now see through our internal investigation, carefully scrutinizing our processes, procedures and training to ensure that the mistakes that led to the erroneous release will never be repeated.”