Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Colorado Supreme Court
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The State sought review of an appellate court's judgment reversing a district court order voiding a juvenile magistrate's ruling. The district court found that the juvenile magistrate lacked jurisdiction to grant J.D.’s motion to withdraw his guilty plea and, further, that J.D.’s sole remedy for a failure of his counsel to render effective assistance in advising him concerning his deferred adjudication was to file a petition with the court for reinstatement of his review rights nunc pro tunc. By contrast, the court of appeals found that the juvenile magistrate had jurisdiction to entertain J.D.’s Crim. P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea because it was a motion in a delinquency case the magistrate had been appointed to hear, and it was not a motion seeking review of any prior order of the magistrate. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded the district court erred in ruling that the magistrate lacked jurisdiction over the juvenile’s Crim. P. 32(d) motion to withdraw his guilty plea. Although on different grounds, the judgment of the court of appeals was affirmed. View "Colorado in Interest of J.D." on Justia Law

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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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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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Nevik Howard, when sixteen years old, was convicted of first-degree assault (a crime of violence) and first-degree criminal trespass after his case was transferred from juvenile court to district court. During the sentencing hearing, Howard argued that he was subject to a more severe penalty for a crime of violence conviction under the transfer statute than he would be if this were a direct-file case because direct-filed juveniles were exempted “from the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in [the crime of violence statute],” whereas transferred juveniles were not. To address that equal protection concern, the district court determined that the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute would not apply in this transfer proceeding, just as they would not have applied in a direct-file proceeding. The court further determined, however, that this ruling did not make Howard eligible for probation. Instead, the court concluded that the statutory scheme only allowed either: (1) a youth offender services (“YOS”) sentence with a suspended Department of Corrections (“DOC”) sentence; or (2) a DOC sentence. The court ultimately sentenced Howard to six years in YOS with a suspended fifteen-year DOC sentence. Howard, appealed, arguing the district court erred in its reasoning. The court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review, affirming the court of appeals, but on different grounds. The Supreme Court held that under the facts of this case, there was no equal protection violation because neither direct-filed juveniles nor transferred juveniles convicted of crimes of violence were eligible for probation, and the district court did not apply the mandatory minimum sentencing provisions in the crime of violence statute. Hence, Howard was treated the same as a direct-filed juvenile would have been with regard to probation and the applicable sentencing range. View "Howard v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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The State of Colorado filed a delinquency petition against B.B.A.M., charging him with one count of third degree burglary and three counts of criminal mischief. B.B.A.M.’s counsel filed a motion to determine competency. Because the court felt it lacked adequate information to make a preliminary finding regarding B.B.A.M.’s competency, it ordered the Colorado Department of Human Services (“DHS”) to conduct an outpatient competency evaluation. The competency evaluator filed a report in which she concluded B.B.A.M. was incompetent to proceed, determined there was a likelihood of restoring him to competency, and recommended the restoration services she deemed appropriate. Based on the evaluator’s report, the court made a preliminary finding of incompetency. Since neither party requested a competency hearing within ten days, the court made the preliminary finding of incompetency a final determination. Proceedings were suspended, and B.B.A.M. was ordered to receive outpatient services designed to restore him to competency. Following the provision of those services, the court ordered, over his objection, a second competency evaluation to determine whether he had been restored to competency. B.B.A.M. appealed, but the district court upheld the juvenile court’s order. The Colorado Supreme Court determined the relevant statutes did not permit a juvenile court to order a second competency evaluation to determine whether a juvenile has been restored to competency; the district court erred in affirming the juvenile court’s order. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed the district court’s order and remanded with instructions to return the case to the juvenile court for a restoration review or a restoration hearing. View "In re Colorado v. B.B.A.M." on Justia Law

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In this case, a juvenile, "T.B." texted a picture of his erect penis to two underage girls and then repeatedly asked the girls to text him naked pictures of themselves. After initially resisting, both girls eventually complied and texted nude selfies to the juvenile. T.B. kept these sexts on his cell phone, where they were discovered by law enforcement in 2013. The question this case presented was whether T.B. could be adjudicated delinquent for sexual exploitation of a child under section 18-6-403(3), C.R.S. (2018), for possessing these images. At a bench trial, T.B. argued that the prosecution failed to prove that he knowingly possessed erotic nudity for the purpose of the overt sexual gratification of a “person involved.” The court rejected this argument and adjudicated T.B. delinquent on both counts. A split court of appeals affirmed. The Colorado Supreme Court granted review to determine the proper standard of review for an unpreserved sufficiency of the evidence claim and to review whether the court of appeals misconstrued section 18-6-403(3)(b.5) in holding the evidence was sufficient to support T.B.’s adjudication for sexual exploitation of a child. The Court was satisfied that the evidence was sufficient to support the trial court's conclusion that the images constituted “erotic nudity” (and therefore “sexually exploitative material”) for purposes of the sexual exploitation of a child statute. View "Colorado in the Interest of T.B." on Justia Law

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After being charged with first degree murder as an adult in district court, Brandon Brown exercised his statutory right to request a “reverse transfer” to juvenile court. In doing so, he asked the Colorado Supreme Court to address whether he could temporarily waive privilege as to certain information at the reverse-transfer hearing without suffering a continued waiver at trial. The Court held he could not: nothing in the reverse-transfer statute gave Brown the ability to make such a limited waiver. "And, neither common law scope-of-waiver limitations nor constitutional principles regarding impermissibly burdening rights changes that result. By disclosing otherwise privileged information in open court during a reverse-transfer hearing, Brown would waive privilege as to any such information at trial." View "Colorado v. Brown" on Justia Law

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In 2014, the Arapahoe County Department of Human Services (the Department) was ordered to take custody of D.Z.B. and house him in a particular facility pending his delinquency adjudication. Believing that the district court order imposed a duty on it that was in violation of statutory requirements, the Department appealed that order. The court of appeals dismissed the appeal, concluding that the Department, as a non-party to the delinquency proceedings, lacked standing to appeal the order. In reaching that conclusion, the Colorado Supreme Court determined the district court conflated the test to evaluate whether a plaintiff has standing to bring a lawsuit with the test to determine whether a non-party has standing to appeal a decision of a lower court. Accordingly, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded for the division to apply the correct standing analysis and to consider any other remaining arguments. View "Colorado in Interest of D.Z.B." on Justia Law

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In 2008, a juvenile probation officer swabbed the cheek of Petitioner Ismael Casillas, then a juvenile, to collect a DNA sample. The probation officer’s collection of Casillas’s DNA violated C.R.S. 19-2-925.6(1) because Casillas had been granted a one-year deferred adjudication and he was not otherwise required under the statute to submit a DNA sample. His genetic markers were nevertheless uploaded to the federal Combined DNA Index System (CODIS). Several months after Casillas successfully completed the terms of his deferred adjudication and his juvenile case had been dismissed, law enforcement investigators matched DNA evidence recovered from a stolen vehicle with the sample in the CODIS database taken from Casillas during his juvenile deferred adjudication. As a result of the DNA match, Casillas was identified and charged in connection with a carjacking. Before trial, Casillas moved to suppress all evidence derived from the DNA match, arguing that evidence derived from the unauthorized cheek swab should be excluded as the fruits of an unlawful search in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. The trial court denied the motion, and a jury later convicted Casillas of criminal mischief. The Colorado Supreme Court granted Casillas’s petition for a writ of certiorari to review whether the exclusionary rule required suppression of the evidence derived from the juvenile probation officer’s unauthorized collection of Casillas’s DNA in this case. The Court concluded that it did, and accordingly, reversed and remanded this case with instructions to vacate Casillas’s conviction. View "Casillas v. Colorado" on Justia Law

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Based on acts that defendant Curtis Brooks committed when he was fifteen years old, prosecutors charged him as an adult with felony murder and other crimes. After a jury convicted Brooks on multiple counts, including the felony murder charge, the trial court imposed a mandatory life without the possibility of parole ("LWOP") sentence in accordance with Colorado’s then-applicable sentencing statutes. This case presented a question of whether Colorado’s recently enacted sentencing scheme for juvenile offenders who received unconstitutional mandatory sentences to life in prison without the possibility of parole (“LWOP”) violates the Special Legislation Clause of the Colorado Constitution. The Colorado Supreme Court concluded that it did not. View "Colorado v. Brooks" on Justia Law