Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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Following a preliminary hearing, a magistrate determined that probable cause existed to believe that A.S.M. had committed the delinquent acts alleged. A.S.M. timely sought review of the magistrate’s probable cause determination. But the juvenile court declined to review the matter on the merits, ruling that it lacked subject matter jurisdiction because the magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding did not constitute a final order. A.S.M. then invoked the Colorado Supreme Court's original jurisdiction, and the Supreme Court issued a rule to show cause. After review, the Supreme Court held that while only a district court magistrate’s final orders or judgments namely, those fully resolving an issue or claim were reviewable under C.R.M. 7(a)(3), the preliminary hearing statute in the Children’s Code, section 19-2.5-609(3), C.R.S. (2022), specifically permitted review of a magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding. "Therefore, we need not get in the middle of the parties’ tug-of-war over whether the magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding in this case constituted a final order. Instead, we hold that section 19-2.5-609(3) entitles prosecutors and juveniles alike to ask a juvenile court to review a magistrate’s preliminary hearing finding in a delinquency proceeding." View "In re Interest of A.S.M." on Justia Law

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Frank Heard was serving a sentence of 23 years plus 80 years to life for two counts of attempted willful, deliberate and premeditated murder for a drive-by shooting he committed at age 15, and one count of voluntary manslaughter for a homicide he committed just after he turned 16. After 15 years of incarceration, he petitioned the trial court to recall his sentence and resentence him to a lesser sentence under Penal Code section 1170 (d)(1) (formerly (d)(2)). The trial court denied Heard’s petition, finding him ineligible for relief because he was not sentenced to an explicitly designated term of life without the possibility of parole. Heard appealed, presenting two issues of first impression: (1) the resentencing provision should be interpreted to apply not only to juvenile offenders sentenced to explicitly designated terms of life without parole, but also to a juvenile offender, like him, who have been sentenced to multiple terms that are the functional equivalent of life without parole; and (2) a contrary interpretation of the resentencing provision would violate his constitutional right to equal protection of the laws. The Court of Appeal rejected Heard's his first contention, instead interpreting section 1170 (d)(1)(A), to limit eligibility to petition for recall and resentencing to juvenile offenders sentenced to explicitly designated life without parole terms. But the Court concluded denying juvenile offenders, who were sentenced to the functional equivalent of life without parole, the opportunity to petition for resentencing violated the guarantee of equal protection. The Court therefore reversed the trial court’s order and remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Heard" on Justia Law

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The State appealed a trial court’s suppression of custodial statements 16-year-old Jeffrey Burton made during a video-taped interview with law enforcement officers who had arrested Burton for the murder of George Akins, Jr. The State contended the trial court erred in concluding that Burton clearly, unequivocally, and unambiguously invoked his right to remain silent and that the State failed to show that Burton knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The Georgia Supreme Court did not decide whether the trial court erred in concluding that Burton clearly invoked his right to remain silent. However, it did conclude that the trial court did not err in ruling that the State failed to meet its burden of showing that Burton knowingly and voluntarily waived his Miranda rights: a ruling that was supported by factual and credibility findings that were not clearly erroneous. The Supreme Court therefore affirmed. View "Georgia v. Burton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the district court accepting an imposing a proposed youth court consent decree disposition, placing D.A.T. on supervised conditional probation for two years or until sooner released, and suspending the underlying youth court delinquency proceeding, holding that the youth court erred.At issue before the Supreme Court was whether the youth court erred in concluding that the consent decree guilt admission required by Mont. Code Ann. 41-5-1501(2) constitutes or requires a change of answer under Mont. Code Ann. 41-5-1502(8), thereby effecting a delinquency adjudication. The Supreme Court answered the question in the affirmative and remanded for entry of an amended dispositional order clarifying the effect of D.A.T.'s consent decree admission in according with Mon. Code Ann. 41-5-1501(1). View "In re D.A.T." on Justia Law

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The juvenile court assumed jurisdiction over M.A. upon his admission that he had committed a felony sexual battery (Penal Code 243.4). The juvenile court granted him probation for one year. At the recommendation of the probation officer—who noted that sexual battery was among the offenses referenced in section 29805—and over M.A.’s objection, the court ordered “[t]hat [M.A.] shall immediately surrender any and all firearms … and refrain from possessing, owning, or controlling any and all firearms until his . . . 30th birthday.” Under Penal Code 29820, a minor adjudged a ward of the juvenile court for certain offenses—including “an offense enumerated in Section 29805”—shall be prohibited until age 30 from possessing firearms. Under section 29805, adults convicted of certain misdemeanors are subject to a 10-year prohibition against possessing firearms.The court of appeal affirmed the order. The prohibition against firearms for certain juvenile offenders applies to M.A. because he committed an offense that is “enumerated” in section 29850; to the extent M.A. challenged the imposition of the prohibition as a probation condition, the prohibition against firearms is statutorily authorized and required under section 29820. The term “enumerated” must be interpreted as including both felony and misdemeanor violations of the statutes listed in section 29805. View "In re M.A." on Justia Law

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The State of Vermont appealed a family division court's dismissal of three juvenile delinquency petitions against S.D. for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. The State argued the family division retained jurisdiction to transfer them to the criminal division even after S.D. reached the age of twenty years and six months. S.D. argued 13 V.S.A. § 7403 did not provide a right for the State to appeal the dismissal of a delinquency petition. The Vermont Supreme Court agreed with S.D. and dismissed this appeal, overruling precedent to the contrary in In re F.E.F., 594 A.2d 897 (1991). View "In re S.D." on Justia Law

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Tonelli Anderson petitioned the Washington Supreme Court for review of his 61-year sentence he received for two first degree murders committed at age 17. Anderson asked the Court to find his sentence was unconstitutionally cruel under the Washington constitution, arguing that Washington v. Haag announced a bright line rule that no juvenile offender could ever receive a sentence of 46 years or longer, no matter how serious or numerous their crimes might be. The Supreme Court agreed that Haag limited the category of juvenile offenders who could receive a de facto life without parole (LWOP) sentence, but when the offender’s crimes do not reflect those “mitigating qualities of youth,” Washington’s constitution does not bar a de facto LWOP sentence. In light of the evidence presented at trial, the Supreme Court concluded the trial court appropriately determined Anderson’s crimes did not reflect “youthful immaturity, impetuosity, or failure to appreciate risks and consequences.” Therefore his sentence was affirmed. View "Washington v. Anderson" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of the superior court in favor of the parole board as to Plaintiff's appeal from the board's fourth denial of his request for parole, holding that the superior court correctly affirmed the board's decision to deny Plaintiff release on parole.After a retrial, Plaintiff was convicted of rape and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon for crimes he committed when he was sixteen years old. He was sentenced to life imprisonment with the possibility of parole. In denying Plaintiff's fourth request for parole, the board concluded that he was not yet rehabilitated and that his release was not compatible with the welfare of society. The superior court affirmed. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding that Plaintiff was not entitled to relief as to any of his arguments on appeal. View "Rodriguez v. Mass. Parole Board" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Devin Miles sought certiorari review of superior court decisions denying his motion to quash an indictment against him, his renewed motion to quash, his motion for interlocutory appeal, and his motion for findings of fact and rulings of law. In August 2019, the State filed three juvenile delinquency petitions against petitioner in the family division of the circuit court. One of the juvenile petitions charged the petitioner with a pattern of aggravated felonious sexual assault (AFSA). Petitioner argued the court erred by failing to quash the indictment because, in his view, the indictment was contrary to RSA 169-B:4, VII (Supp. 2021) and violated New Hampshire Rule of Criminal Procedure 20(a)(4) as well as his double jeopardy rights pursuant to the State and Federal Constitutions. Finding no reversible error, the New Hampshire Supreme Court affirmed the superior court. View "Petition of Devin Miles" on Justia Law

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Child, then age seventeen, became Facebook friends with a former schoolmate, Jeremiah Erickson (Erickson), then age nineteen. The two conversed primarily through their respective Facebook Messenger accounts. Child and Erickson used Messenger to arrange in-person meetings, during which Erickson drove to Child’s house to pick her up and drive her somewhere to “hang out.” It was the second of these meetings that gave rise to the events leading to Child’s adjudication. Both Erickson and Child testified that their get-together on the night of February 24, 2020, did not end well, and each provided a different narrative as to what unfolded. At Child’s adjudication, the State sought to introduce evidence of communications between Child and Erickson the State alleged took place on Facebook Messenger the day after an incident involving Erickson’s vehicle. The State sought to authenticate the messages through Erickson’s testimony as to his personal knowledge of both the accuracy of screenshots and his history of Facebook Messenger communications with Child, as well as through the contents of the messages themselves. Child’s counsel objected to the authentication of the exhibits, arguing the screenshots did not show with certainty the messages were sent from Child’s Facebook account and emphasizing what counsel characterized as the inherent difficulty in “lay[ing a] foundation on Facebook Messenger messages because anybody can have access to somebody’s phone or Facebook account.” The district court overruled the objection, and the evidence was admitted. Child was subsequently adjudicated delinquent and appealed the district court’s judgment and disposition. The New Mexico Supreme Court agreed with the Court of Appeals that the traditional authentication standard set out in Rule 11-901 provided the appropriate legal framework for authenticating social media evidence. But the Court disagreed with appellate court's conclusion that the State failed to meet the threshold for authentication established under that rule, much less that the district court abused its discretion in finding the State had met its burden. The Supreme Court held the State’s authentication showing was sufficient under Rule 11-901 to support a finding that, more likely than not, the Facebook Messenger account used to send the messages belonged to Child and that Child was the author of the messages. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals was reversed and Child’s delinquency adjudications were reinstated. View "New Mexico v. Jesenya O." on Justia Law