Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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The issue this case case, which stemmed from a late-night argument on Twitter among several high school students, presented to the Colorado Supreme Court centered on the applicable framework for distinguishing a true threat from constitutionally protected speech in the "cyber arena." R.D., a juvenile, was adjudicated delinquent for harassment by communication based on those tweets directed at another student that took place in the wake of a local school shooting. Put differently, the question was whether R.D.'s statements were "true threats." The Supreme Court held a true threat is a statement that, considered in context and under the totality of the circumstances, an intended or foreseeable recipient would reasonably perceive as a serious expression of intent to commit an act of unlawful violence. In determining whether a statement is a true threat, a reviewing court must examine the words used, but it must also consider the context in which the statement was made. Particularly where the alleged threat is communicated online, the contextual factors courts should consider include, but are not limited to: (1) the statement’s role in a broader exchange, if any, including surrounding events; (2) the medium or platform through which the statement was communicated, including any distinctive conventions or architectural features; (3) the manner in which the statement was conveyed (e.g., anonymously or not, privately or publicly); (4) the relationship between the speaker and recipient(s); and (5) the subjective reaction of the statement’s intended or foreseeable recipient(s). Because neither the juvenile court nor the court of appeals had the benefit of the framework announced by this case, the Supreme Court reversed judgment and remanded for reconsideration. View "Colorado in Interest of R.D." on Justia Law

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Welfare and Institutions Code section 733, subdivision (c), is clear: DJJ commitment is permitted only if the minor's most recent offense is listed in Penal Code section 290.008, subdivision (c), or Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (b). The Court of Appeal vacated the commitment order, because the latest offense defendant committed is listed in neither statute. In this case, defendant committed kidnapping during the commission of a carjacking, kidnapping to commit robbery, second degree robbery, and unlawfully driving or taking a vehicle. Prosecutors also alleged that defendant restricted or obstructed a peace officer later the same night. The court remanded for a new dispositional hearing. View "In re B.J." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the court of appeals holding that a conviction for failure to register as a sex offender under Ohio Rev. Code 2950.04 does not violate a defendant's due-process and jury-trial rights guaranteed by the state and federal Constitutions when the duty to register arises from a juvenile court's delinquency adjudication, holding that such a conviction is not unconstitutional. Appellant was adjudicated delinquent as to what would have been two counts of fourth-degree felony gross sexual imposition if committed by an adult. Appellant was classified as a juvenile-offender registrant and tier I sex offender and was ordered to comply with statutory registration, notification-of-address-change, and verification duties for a period of ten years. Appellant was later convicted for violating a duty to register as a sex offender. On appeal, Appellant argued that his conviction was unconstitutional based on State v. Hand, 73 N.E.3d 448 (Ohio 2016). The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) that Appellant's conviction for a violation of section 2950.04 for that arose from a juvenile adjudication did not violate Appellant's rights to a jury or due process under the Ohio Constitution and United States Constitution. View "State v. Buttery" on Justia Law

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The events that formed the basis of Nazeer Taylor’s prosecution occurred when he was fifteen years old. In March 2014, the Commonwealth filed a delinquency petition alleging that Taylor committed numerous delinquent acts purportedly stemming from recurring incidents of sexual assault of his then-eleven-year-old foster brother, A.O. This appeal asked whether a minor’s Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination was violated when a juvenile court granted the Commonwealth’s request to have a delinquency matter transferred to an adult court for criminal prosecution, based in part upon the minor’s decision not to admit culpability to the delinquent acts alleged. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court reversed the Superior Court judgment and remanded for a determination, in the first instance, whether the harmless error doctrine was applicable to the juvenile court's "constitutionally deficient misapplication" of the Juvenile Act's transfer provisions, and if it was not, or if the error was not harmless, for consideration of the available relief under these circumstances. View "Pennsylvania v. Taylor" on Justia Law

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Where a juvenile court vacates its true finding on a generic murder allegation and redesignates it as a finding on an uncharged target offense, and does so before a minor has had the opportunity to contest the court's findings or orders, the minor may challenge the sufficiency of the evidence of the redesignated offense on appeal. The Court of Appeal held that there was insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court's decision sustaining the allegations that I.A. possessed a concealable firearm and committed vandalism. Therefore, the court reversed the juvenile court's findings, vacating the jurisdiction and disposition order and dismissing the Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition. View "In re I.A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the juvenile court may exercise jurisdiction in a formal wardship proceeding on the basis of the minor having four or more truancies within one school year under Cal. Welf & Inst. Code 601(b) if a fourth truancy report has been issued to the appropriate school official, even if the minor has not been previously referred to a school attendance review board (SARB) or a similar truancy mediation program. The district court filed a wardship petition against A.N., a high school student, in the juvenile court, alleging that A.N. was a habitual truant and that she was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. After a hearing, the juvenile court sustained the wardship petition. A.N. appealed, arguing that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction because, at the time the petition was filed, she had not yet appeared before a SARB and because she and her parents had not received a fourth truancy report. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because A.N.’s school had sent at least four truancy reports to the superintendent of the school district before the wardship petition was filed, the juvenile court possessed jurisdiction over A.N. View "In re A.N." on Justia Law

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After being charged, fourteen-year-old G.S.S. was detained for more than three months without bail, even though he had not entered a plea and had not been tried on the charges against him. At that point, G.S.S.’s counsel filed a motion to dismiss, arguing that G.S.S.’s “right to a speedy trial” had been violated under section 19-2-509(4)(b), C.R.S. (2019). The trial court agreed and dismissed the case against G.S.S. with prejudice, and the court of appeals affirmed in Colorado in Interest of G.S.S., 2019 COA 4M, __ P.3d __. The Colorado Supreme Court then granted certiorari to determine the proper remedy for a violation of the sixty-day limit in section 19-2-509(4)(b). The Supreme Court determined the remedy for a section 19-2-509(4)(b) violation was for the trial court to immediately hold a bail hearing and order the juvenile's release. Accordingly, the judgment of the court of appeals was reversed. View "Colorado In Interest of G.S.S." on Justia Law

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The Division of Family Services ("DFS") investigated allegations that the minor, Appellant Daniel Spintz, sexually assaulted his younger sister. After its investigation, DFS determined to substantiate and place Spintz on the Child Protection Registry. This appeal concerned whether DFS provided adequate notice of its intent to substantiate and place Spintz on the Child Protection Registry. On November 27, 2017, DFS sent Spintz and his guardian the Notice through certified and regular mail. The certified mail was not successfully delivered and returned to DFS. On April 10, 2018, after the conclusion of parallel delinquency proceedings, DFS filed the Petition with the Family Court. DFS also sent Spintz and his guardian the Petition with a copy of the Notice attached for reference. Spintz claimed he did not receive the November 2017 notice, and only became aware of the substantiation proceedings in April 2018 when he received the Notice attached to the Petition. The Family Court commissioner concluded the Notice sent with the Petition in April 2018 satisfied all statutory and constitutional notice requirements. On review, the Family Court affirmed the commissioner's order. After considering the parties’ arguments and the record on appeal, the Delaware Supreme Court found that Delaware law required DFS to send the Notice of Intent to Substantiate before DFS files the Petition for Substantiation. Therefore, DFS did not meet its notice requirement by sending the Notice with the already-filed Petition. That, however, did not change the ultimate outcome of this appeal because DFS introduced evidence showing that it sent the Notice by certified mail on November 27, 2017, long before it filed the Petition. DFS also sent the Notice by regular mail at that time; and it sent the Notice a second time on April 10, 2018, which Spintz received. Based on this evidence, the Supreme Court concluded that DFS provided adequate notice that satisfied statutory and constitutional requirements. View "Spintz v. DFS" on Justia Law

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Anthony and Taylor, the parents of Aubrey, born in 2011, had an on-again-off-again relationship. At the time of the birth, Taylor was staying with Aubrey’s maternal great-grandparents. Anthony was present at Aubrey’s birth but was not named on the birth certificate. Weeks later, Taylor and Aubrey moved in with Anthony; when Aubrey was six months old, they got married. According to Taylor, Anthony was often absent because he had a serious alcohol and drug abuse problem and sometimes committed acts of domestic violence against Taylor. When Aubrey was three years old, Anthony and Taylor separated. Taylor and Aubrey moved in with Aubrey's great-grandparents. Taylor obtained a temporary restraining order against Anthony that precluded contact with her or Aubrey. After the TRO was lifted, Taylor allowed Anthony to have visits with Aubrey outside the great-grandparents’ home. In November 2015, after learning that Taylor was missing, Anthony filed a petition for the dissolution of the marriage and sought custody of Aubrey. The juvenile court terminated Anthony’s paternal rights under Family Code section 7822 and declared Aubrey free for adoption by her great-grandparents. The court of appeal reversed. The evidence did not support a finding that Anthony’s efforts to have contact with Aubrey were mere token communications that did not overcome the statutory presumption of abandonment; there was no substantial evidence that Anthony intended to abandon Aubrey during the relevant period. View "In re Aubrey T." on Justia Law

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Appellant, J.M.G., was born in August 1996. From an early age, J.M.G. experienced chronic mental health issues and a series of resultant hospitalizations. Following an incident in 2013, during which he attempted to choke his adoptive mother (Mother), J.M.G. consented to a voluntary admission into Philhaven, a behavioral health facility treating children and adolescents. Thereafter, J.M.G. agreed to a voluntary admission into Bradley Center, a residential treatment facility. While at Bradley Center, J.M.G. made revelations to Mother that he had been sexually inappropriate with his adoptive sister. Mother referred the matter to Childline. A subsequent investigation resulted in J.M.G. being adjudicated delinquent for one count of misdemeanor indecent assault. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court granted allowance of appeal in this case to decide whether the harmless error doctrine was applicable to determinations made by the trial court under Act 211 when the materials provided to the Sexual Offender Assessment Board (SOAB), and considered by the Commonwealth’s expert in preparing his report and rendering his opinion, erroneously contained privileged communications under 42 Pa.C.S. section 5944 of the Judicial Code, establishing psychologist-patient privilege. After review, the Supreme Court concluded the harmless error doctrine did not apply. View "In the Interest of: J.M.G." on Justia Law