Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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In 2017, a juvenile wardship petition was filed (Welfare and Institutions Code 602(a)), alleging that A.J. committed misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. The probation department supported A.J.'s request for informal supervision under section 654 in lieu of adjudging him a ward of the court, noting that A.J. was remorseful, had no prior delinquency history or significant disciplinary record, had been receptive to receiving services and had taken the initiative to obtain services, and had familial support. The court rejected the request, reasoning that A.J. was statutorily ineligible for informal supervision because “[r]estitution can clearly be over [$1,000] in this case” given the likely burial and other expenses. The court rejected arguments that no permissible claims for restitution had been made and that this case arose from “a tragic accident.” The probation department unsuccessfully recommended informal probation (section 725). The juvenile court adjudged A.J. a ward of the court, placed him on formal probation and ordered him to pay restitution to be determined. A.J. completed his probationary term and the court dismissed the petition, terminated his wardship and ordered his juvenile record sealed. The court of appeal affirmed. The statute does not require the submission of claims, or the presentation of evidence of restitution in excess of $1,000, before the juvenile court may apply the presumption of ineligibility. View "In re A.J." on Justia Law

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A.W. committed five counts of felony vandalism. The court declared minor a ward of the state and ordered him to serve 37 days in juvenile hall. The sole question on appeal was whether the evidence supported a finding that, for each count, “the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction [was] four hundred dollars ($400) or more,” as required to elevate the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. The Court of Appeal determined the only competent testimony on that issue came from an employee of the City of Palmdale who helped prepare an analysis of the average cost to clean up an instance of graffiti. The Court determined: (1) use of an average, by itself, was not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the amount of damage inflicted by minor was equal to the average cleanup cost, rather than some other number; (2) the calculation included the cost of law enforcement, which, though proper in certain restitution settings, was not a proper consideration in assessing the damage minor inflicted under the applicable statute; and (3) Palmdale’s methodology for calculating the average cost is flawed. The Court reversed adjudication in part with direction to reduce the felony counts to misdemeanors. View "In re A.W." on Justia Law

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A.M. (juvenile) appealed an unpublished Court of Appeals decision affirming her conviction for possession of a controlled substance. She argued: (1) it was manifest constitutional error for the trial court to admit a detention center inventory form where she signed a sworn statement indicating that a backpack, which was discovered to contain methamphetamine, was her property because it violated her right against self-incrimination; and (2) the affirmative defense of unwitting possession was an unconstitutional burden-shifting scheme that violated her due process rights. After review, the Washington Supreme Court held the admission of the inventory form was manifest constitutional error because it violated her right against self-incrimination and warranted reversal because it was not harmless error. Because the Court found reversible constitutional error, it declined to consider A.M.'s due process argument. The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Washington v. A.M." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the holding of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the juvenile court finding that sixteen-year-old S.K. was involved in distributing child pornography, holding that a minor may be adjudicated delinquent under Maryland's child pornography and obscenity statutes as the "person" who is a distributor of child pornography and a displayer of obscene matter when she is also the minor participant in the sex act. S.K. sent a video to her two best friends that showed herself performing fellatio in a male. When the video was later distributed to other students S.K. was charged under Md. Code Crim. Law (CR) 11-207(a)(4) and 11-203(b)(1)(ii). After an adjuratory hearing, the juvenile court found S.K. involved as to distributing child pornography and displaying an obscene item to a minor. The court of special appeals reversed in part, holding (1) a minor legally engaged in consensual sexual activity is not exempted from CR 11-207(a)(4); and (2) the cellphone video was not an "item" covered within CR 11-203(b)(1)(ii). The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) the plain language of CR 11-207(a)(4) subsumes situations where a minor produces and distributes pornographic material of himself or herself; and (2) S.K.'s conduct fell within that contemplated by CR 11-203. View "In re S.K." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's finding that R.C. had committed an unauthorized invasion of privacy pursuant to Penal Code section 647, subdivision (j)(3)(A). The court applied the plain meaning of the word "concealed," and held that "concealed" means "to prevent disclosure or recognition of," and "to place out of sight." Similarly, Merriam-Webster defines "concealed" as "kept out of sight or hidden from view." In this case, the court held that substantial evidence demonstrated that R.C. committed the offense of unauthorized invasion of privacy when he used a concealed cellphone to secretly video-record K.V. in a state of full or partial undress, in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade her privacy. In this case. R.C. did not tell K.V. about his intent to video-record them until after he had begun recording, he positioned the cellphone behind K.V. where it was hidden from her view, and K.V. did not realize the cellphone was present until R.C. announced he was recording and she turned her head. View "In re R.C." on Justia Law

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Indiana statutes provided a fast and confidential judicial bypass procedure that is supposed to allow a small fraction of pregnant, unemancipated minors seeking abortions to obtain them without the consent of or notice to their parents, guardians, or custodians, Ind. Code 16-34-2-4(b). In 2017, Act 404 added a parental notification requirement: Parents must be given prior notice of the planned abortion unless the judge also finds such notice is not in the minor’s “best interests” unlike the judicial bypass of parental consent, which may be based on either maturity or best interests. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the new notice requirements, finding it likely to “create an undue burden for a sufficiently large fraction of mature, abortion-seeking minors in Indiana.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Indiana’s notice law creates a substantial risk of a practical veto over a mature yet unemancipated minor’s right to an abortion. This practical veto appears likely to impose an undue burden for the unemancipated minors who seek to obtain an abortion without parental involvement via the judicial bypass. Indiana has made no effort to support with evidence its claimed justifications or to undermine with evidence Planned Parenthood’s showing about the likely effects of the law. View "Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. v. Adams" on Justia Law

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N.C., born in 2000, and another minor sexually abused a clearly-intoxicated 17-year-old female high school student outside a private house party after a homecoming dance. The juvenile court entered a dispositional order committing N.C. to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for a maximum period of confinement of nine years following his admission to forcible oral copulation and sexual battery. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting N.C.’s argument that there was no evidence the commitment would be of probable benefit to him or that a less restrictive placement would be ineffective or inappropriate. Conflicting evidence did not render the juvenile court’s commitment order an abuse of discretion or warrant its reversal. The juvenile court found that certain testimony “lacked foundation” and was “clearly biased,” because the witness’s organization would benefit financially were minor placed there. The juvenile court properly considered the proposed less restrictive alternatives before finding them inappropriate or ineffective in his case; the court was appropriately focused on minor’s individual circumstances in light of the potential reformative, educational, rehabilitative, treatment and disciplinary benefits of a DJJ commitment, as opposed to one of the alternative programs. View "In re N.C." on Justia Law

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Nicole, age 13 became a dependent of the juvenile court. Nicole suffered from emotional and behavioral problems and later became “[a] dependent minor who turns 18 years of age” with a permanent plan of long-term foster care, continuing under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction because she agreed that she would continue her education. The designation continued despite her noncompliance, a pregnancy, and living in an unapproved home with a boyfriend who had a history of selling illegal drugs and committing domestic violence. When Nicole turned 20, the Agency recommended that the court dismiss Nicole’s dependency, citing failure to participate in services. In a special writ proceeding, the court of appeal directed the juvenile court to vacate its order requiring Nicole’s therapist to testify about confidential communications relating to whether Nicole has a qualifying mental condition. The juvenile court later terminated its dependency jurisdiction because she had reached the age of 21. The court dismissed Nicole’s case. In her dependency case, Nicole sought an award of attorney’s fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, which codifies the private attorney general doctrine exception. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion; section 1021.5 fees are not recoverable in a dependency proceeding. View "In re Nicole S." on Justia Law

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Vas Coleman was arrested at his home in Huntsville, Alabama on charges related to the 2015 death of Jose Greer in Fulton County, Georgia. Although Coleman was sixteen years old at the time of his arrest, the Fulton County Superior Court had exclusive jurisdiction over his case pursuant to OCGA 15-11-560 (b) (1) because he was accused of murder. After his arrest, Coleman was held at the Fulton County Youth Detention Center until he was granted a bond on March 24, 2016, and subsequently released. On April 8, 2016, Coleman was indicted by a Fulton County grand jury, along with four co-defendants, for felony murder and burglary in relation to Greer’s death. Almost two years later, on March 20, 2018, Coleman and his co-defendants were re-indicted on the same charges. After the State nolle prossed the April 2016 indictment, Coleman filed a motion to transfer his case to juvenile court, arguing that, because the March 2018 indictment was returned outside the 180-day time limit set by OCGA 17-7-50.1, the Superior Court no longer had jurisdiction. Relying on the Court of Appeals’ decisions in Edwards v. Georgia, 748 SE2d 501 (2013) and Georgia v. Armendariz, 729 SE2d 538 (2012), the trial court granted Coleman’s motion to transfer. The State appealed, arguing that the trial court granted the motion in error. “Reading the statute in its most natural and reasonable way,” the Georgia Supreme Court concluded the 180-day time limitation in OCGA 17-7-50.1 did not apply to a juvenile who was released and remained on bond prior to the running of 180 days. The Court overruled Edwards, and further concluded the trial court erred in transferring Coleman’s case to the juvenile court. View "Georgia v. Coleman" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeals reversing the decision of the district court denying a juvenile's motion to dismiss a petition alleging disorderly conduct, holding that the court of appeals erred in holding that the State's evidence was insufficient to support the adjudication for disorderly conduct. Two juvenile petitions were filed in the district court alleging that Juvenile was delinquent because of his commission of the offenses of disorderly conduct and resisting a public officer. The district court denied Juvenile's motion to dismiss the petitions and adjudicated Juvenile to be delinquent. The court of appeals vacated the adjudications, concluding that the evidence was insufficient to support Juvenile's adjudications for the offenses. The Supreme Court reversed in part, holding (1) the court of appeals erred in holding that the State's evidence was insufficient to support the adjudication for disorderly conduct; but (2) the court of appeals did not err in vacating the adjudication and disposition orders in regard to the charge of resisting a public officer. View "In re T.T.E." on Justia Law