Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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B.B. was charged with aggravated assault based on allegations from August 2016. In November 2018, B.B. was 20 years old, and filed a motion for youthful-offender status based on his age in 2016 . B.B. struggled with alcohol and heroin addiction, and his residential and employment situations were “unstable.” The State opposed the motion. There was prima facie evidence that B.B. “engaged in a new violent act” while he was “under the influence of alcohol,” even though B.B. was underage and was subject to a condition of release that required him to refrain from drinking alcohol. The youthful-offender statutory scheme would have allowed, if the criminal defendant was under twenty-two years old and was at least twelve years old at the time of the alleged offense, a motion to be filed with the criminal division requesting youthful-offender status. Attaining that status would provide for the defendant to obtain a battery of counseling and rehabilitation in addition to any punishment determined by the court. Only if the court finds that public safety will be protected may the court then go on to consider the other statutory factors. Following a hearing, the trial court concluded that B.B. had not met his burden to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that public safety would be protected if he were granted youthful-offender status, and denied the motion. B.B. requested permission to appeal to the Vermont Supreme Court, which was granted. However, finding no reversible error, the Supreme Court affirmed the district court’s judgment. View "In re B.B., Juvenile" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal joined the First, Third, Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Districts in holding that Senate Bill No. 1391, which eliminates the district attorneys' ability to seek transfer of 14 and 15 year olds from juvenile court to criminal court, is constitutional. Petitioner, who was 15 years old at the time of the offenses, sought a writ of mandate requiring the trial court to vacate its order denying his motion to remand his case to juvenile court. The court granted a peremptory writ of mandate directing the superior court to vacate its order, and remanded his case to the juvenile court. View "Narith S. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Jones is serving a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole (LWOP) for a 1994 murder he committed when he was 19 years old. In 2018, Jones filed a petition to recall his sentence, citing Penal Code 1170(d)(2), which applies to a defendant who is serving an LWOP sentence for an offense committed when the defendant was “under 18 years of age” and who has been incarcerated for at least 15 years. The court of appeal upheld the denial of relief, rejecting an argument that section 1170(d)(2) violates equal protection because it denies LWOP offenders ages 18-25 the same opportunity to petition for resentencing that is afforded to similarly-situated juvenile offenders without any rational basis for doing so. LWOP offenders who were 18-25 years old when they committed their offenses are adult offenders, not similarly situated to juvenile offenders. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly found that “children are constitutionally different from adults for purposes of sentencing.” To determine the age at which the diminished culpability of a youthful offender should no longer result in a categorically different sentence, a line must be drawn. The Legislature could reasonably decide that for LWOP offenders, the line should be drawn at age 18, rather than at some later date when the brain is fully developed. Drawing a bright line at age 18 establishes an objective and easily implemented measure, which has been used by the U.S. Supreme Court. View "In re Jones" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the orders of the juvenile court placing Giavonni P. At the Lincoln Regional Center (LRC), holding that the juvenile court had the authority to place Giavonni at the LRC on a specific date or otherwise. The Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services appealed, arguing that the placement orders usurped the LRC's statutory authority to administer and manage its patient admission and discharge process. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the order in this case was final; (2) this Court reaches the merits of these appeals under the public interest exception to the mootness doctrine; (3) the juvenile court had the authority to order this placement; and (4) while an adult facility was not the optimal choice for a juvenile offender, Giavonni's placement at the LRC was in his best interests at the time of his placement. View "In re Interest of Giavonni P." on Justia Law

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The Santa Clara County District Attorney filed juvenile wardship petitions (Welf. & Inst. Code 602(a)) alleging that R.E., born in June 2000 and a ward of the juvenile court since 2016, committed two first-degree burglaries and moved to transfer R.E. to adult criminal court. (section 707(a)) In June 2017, R.E. had been ordered to a ranch program following his involvement in carjacking, vehicle theft, and robbery. He completed the program's custodial portion but, after testing positive for drugs and missing school, was returned to the ranch. R.E. was “failed” from the program. R.E.’s supervising probation counselor testified that although he had recommended that R.E. return to the ranch, his recommendation had changed because there would not be enough time for R.E. to complete all of the programs before he turned 19; the ranch and aftercare program could not accommodate 19-year-olds. The juvenile court granted the motion to transfer, noting that, despite believing that R.E. was amenable to treatment as a juvenile, it “need[ed] the ability to use custody as an incentive” and “confinement [in county jail] would not be an available disposition under juvenile law if [he] were found to have violated probation after turning 19.” The court of appeal vacated the transfer order. The juvenile court erred in concluding it would not have the authority to order R.E. into custody if he violated probation after turning 19. View "R.E. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Four months shy of his eighteenth birthday, petitioner Terrell Smith stabbed his friend Brandon Bennett (the victim) to death. When the victim's father Darryl Bennett walked in on the stabbing, Smith laughed at Bennett's anguish and attempted to stab Bennett to death as well. Following a jury trial, Smith was convicted and sentenced to thirty-five years' imprisonment for murder and thirty years' imprisonment for attempted murder, the sentences to be run concurrently. Despite receiving a sentence longer than the mandatory minimum, Smith argued the statute was unconstitutional because it placed juvenile and adult homicide offenders on equal footing for sentencing purposes, and the Eighth Amendment, as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court in Miller v. Alabama, forbade such a result. In accordance with the overwhelming majority of states that have addressed similar arguments, the South Carolina Court held the mandatory minimum sentence imposed by section 16-3-20(A) of the South Carolina Code (2015) was constitutional as applied to juveniles, and affirmed Smith's convictions and sentences. View "South Carolina v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court committing fifteen-year-old A.M. to the Department of Correction (DOC), holding that A.M. failed to demonstrate that he received ineffective assistance of counsel under the circumstances of this case. After a true finding of disorderly conduct, A.M. was placed on supervised probation. But due to A.M.'s conduct, the probation department recommended his placement with the DOC. After a disposition modification hearing, the juvenile court committed A.M. to the DOC for an indeterminate period. On appeal, A.M. argued that his attorney rendered ineffective assistance during the modification hearing. At issue in this case was whether the standard for deciding the claim was founded in the Sixth Amendment's right to counsel for a criminal proceeding or in the Fourteenth Amendment's due process clause. The Supreme Court held (1) a due process standard governs a child's claim that he received ineffective assistance in a disposition-modification hearing during his delinquency proceedings; and (2) A.M. received effective assistance of counsel during his modification hearing. View "A.M. v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the circuit court's order denying Defendant's postconviction motion, holding that the circuit court properly exercised adult court criminal jurisdiction over Defendant, who was then sixteen years old, based on another circuit court's prior decision to waive Defendant from juvenile court to adult court. In his postconviction motion Defendant argued that Wis. Stat. 938.183(1) did not give the circuit court competency to proceed over the juvenile counts because, for the circuit court to waive Defendant without a waiver hearing, the statute required a prior waiver by that particular circuit court. Thus, Defendant argued, the circuit court improperly relied on the other circuit court's waiver, never acquired adult-court jurisdiction over Defendant, and thus lacked competency to preside over Defendant's case in adult court. The circuit court denied the motion. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 938.183(1) conferred exclusive original adult criminal jurisdiction over Defendant based on the other circuit court's prior waiver. View "State v. Hinkle" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the district court rejecting Appellant's argument that a nineteen-month delay between his arrest and trial violated his constitutional right to a speedy trial, holding that Appellant failed to establish a violation of his constitutional right to a speedy trial as guaranteed by the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and section 10 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights. In support of his argument, Appellant contended that the court of appeals erred in ruling that the six months he spent in juvenile detention should not be counted in determining the length of the delay. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the right to a speedy trial applies in juvenile offender proceedings, and therefore, Appellant's period of juvenile detention should be included in a calculation of how long it took to get to trial; but (2) Appellant's constitutional right to a speedy trial was not violated, even considering the full nineteen-month delay rather than the thirteen months considered by the court of appeals. View "State v. Owens" on Justia Law

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A district court certified a question of law to the North Dakota Supreme Court on whether a married person under the age of eighteen was considered a “child” under the Juvenile Court Act. G.C.H. was charged with five crimes which allegedly occurred when G.C.H. was sixteen and seventeen years old. G.C.H. was married when the alleged crimes occurred and still was married. G.C.H. moved to dismiss for lack of subject matter jurisdiction due to his age, claiming the proper jurisdiction was in juvenile court. The district court denied the motion, finding G.C.H. was not a child under North Dakota law because he was married. The North Dakota Supreme Court has discretion to hear certified questions of law by the district court and may refuse to consider a certified question if it is frivolous, interlocutory in nature, or not dispositive of the issues before the district court. Here, neither a negative nor affirmative answer would be dispositive of the case. "If G.C.H. is a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), the juvenile court still would need to determine whether he was delinquent. If G.C.H. is not a child under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4), a jury still would need to determine if G.C.H. is guilty of the alleged crimes. Therefore, the certified question is not determinative of the proceedings. We decline to answer the certified question." Notwithstanding the Supreme Court's declination to answering the certified question, it concluded this case justified exercising supervisory jurisdiction. The district court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over G.C.H. because was a “child” under N.D.C.C. 27-20-02(4)(b). The Supreme Court exercised its supervisory jurisdiction and reversed and remanded with directions to vacate the judgment and dismiss the case for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. View "North Dakota v. G.C.H." on Justia Law