Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Constitutional Law
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Police arrested 18-year-old high school student Ismael Avalos on a murder charge and questioned him in an interrogation room at a police station. During the interview, a forensic technician removed his shirt, pants, socks, and shoes. The technician gave him a paper gown to wear. After about five hours of questioning by police, Avalos said, “I wanna talk to a lawyer.” After some further dialog, a detective said, “I respect your decision that you wanna talk to a lawyer, but if for some reason you want to change your mind and you wanna talk to me, you can, just ask for me. I don’t care if it’s 2:00, 3:00 in the morning I’ll come back. Okay? Because I care about you getting your story the right way out. Okay?” After spending the night in a holding cell, Avalos told one of the jailers he wanted to speak to the detectives again. Avalos was brought back to the same interrogation room for a second interview, still apparently wearing the same paper gown from the day before. Avalos asked, “Whatever I tell my lawyer, he’s going to tell you the same thing, right?” After waiving his Miranda rights, Avalos admitted shooting the murder victim, stating: “I, I self-defended myself, you know?” Avalos was convicted of murder with a firearm enhancement and a substantive gang crime. On appeal, Avalos contends the trial court erred by admitting the second interview into evidence over his objection. Avalos also argues that due to a recent change in the law, his substantive gang conviction must be reversed. The Court of Appeal concluded after review of the trial court record that Avalos did not make a voluntary, knowing, and intelligent Miranda waiver prior to the second interview. The Court further found the admission of the interview into evidence was not harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Attorney General conceded Avalos’ substantive gang conviction should have been reversed and the Court of Appeal agreed. Thus, it reversed the judgment. View "California v. Avalos" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeals affirming the decision of the juvenile court to transfer Appellant to adult court, holding that that court's decision to transfer Appellant to adult court was not supported by a preponderance of the evidence and that the juvenile court abused its discretion by relinquishing jurisdiction.After the juvenile court transferred jurisdiction over Appellant to the general division a jury found Appellant guilty of aggravated murder and murder for a killing that occurred when he was fourteen years old. The court of appeals affirmed the conviction, concluding that the juvenile court did not violate Appellant's constitutional right to due process by transferring his case to the adult court. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the standard of proof applicable to discretionary-bindover proceedings is a preponderance of the evidence, and the state need not produce affirmative evidence of nonamenability; (2) a juvenile court need not consider all potential juvenile dispositions when balancing the factors weighing in favor of and against transfer; and (3) the juvenile court improperly relinquished jurisdiction in this case. View "State v. Nicholas" on Justia Law

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Petitioner Li’Anthony Williams was 17 years old in 2001 when he pleaded guilty to assault in the second degree with sexual motivation and was sentenced under the indeterminate sentencing scheme for sex offenders. The trial court imposed the statutory maximum term of life with a minimum term at the bottom of the three to nine month standard range. Williams was transferred to the Department of Corrections (DOC) with the understanding that his release date would be determined by the Indeterminate Sentence Review Board (ISRB or Board). The ISRB found Williams was not releasable. Williams in turn filed a personal restraint petition (PRP) on grounds that his maximum term of life sentence was unconstitutional and that he was sentenced to a nonexistent crime. Williams also argued his petition was not barred by the one-year time limit for two reasons: (1) his claim was based on Washington v. Houston-Sconiers, 391 P.3d 409 (2017), which was a significant, material change of law that should be retroactively applied; and (2) his conviction was invalid on its face. The Washington Supreme Court disagreed with both claims: Williams’ petition failed to meet the time bar exception under RCW 10.73.100(6) because his sentence did not violate the substantive rule of Houston-Sconiers; therefore, Houston-Sconiers was not material to Williams’ claim. Furthermore, Williams’ petition did not meet the exception under RCW 10.73.090 because the State’s failure to specify the intended felony underlying the conviction on the judgment and sentence (J&S) did not render the J&S invalid on its face. The Court therefore dismissed Williams’ petition as untimely. View "In re Pers. Restraint of Williams" on Justia Law

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Kengi Moses appealed an amended order deferring imposition of sentence entered upon a conditional plea of guilty to unlawful possession of a firearm. The North Dakota Supreme Court affirmed, concluding that Moses’ prior juvenile adjudication qualified as a predicate conviction under the statute prohibiting possession of a firearm following a criminal conviction and that he received due process under the law. View "North Dakota v. Moses" on Justia Law

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In 2005, fifteen-year-old Davion Keel and eighteen-year-old Ariel Bolton held Barry Knight at gunpoint and robbed him of twenty dollars on the streets of San Bernardino. One of them shot and killed Knight when he resisted the robbery and tried to flee. Keel and Bolton were both prosecuted in adult criminal court and convicted of first degree murder in connection with Knight’s death. More than a decade later, Keel petitioned to vacate his murder conviction and to be resentenced under Penal Code section 1172.6 based on legislative changes to California's murder laws. The trial court denied the petition for resentencing, finding Keel was not entitled to relief because he remained liable for Knight’s murder because he was a major participant in the underlying robbery and he acted with reckless indifference to human life. Keel appealed, arguing the evidence was insufficient to support the trial court’s finding that he was a major participant in the underlying robbery who acted with reckless indifference to human life. In the alternative, he contended the court applied an incorrect legal standard when it adjudicated his petition for resentencing. The Court of Appeal agreed with Keel’s first argument, which rendered it unnecessary to reach his second argument. Because there was insufficient evidence to support the trial court’s determination, the Court reversed the order denying Keel’s resentencing petition and remanded the matter to the trial court with directions to grant Keel’s resentencing petition and vacate his murder conviction. Further, the Court concluded Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, and Senate Bill 1391 (2017–2018 Reg. Sess.) would apply retroactively to Keel once his petition for resentencing was granted and his murder conviction was vacated. Therefore, on remand, the Court instructed the trial court to transfer the matter to the juvenile court for resentencing in accordance with those measures. View "California v. Keel" on Justia Law

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Javier Garza was found guilty of third degree rape when he was 17 years old. Twenty-five years after his adjudication, Garza successfully petitioned for relief from registering as a sex offender. Garza then moved to vacate and seal his juvenile adjudication under RCW 13.50.260(3). The court found it had no authority to vacate juvenile adjudications under this provision and denied the motion. The Court of Appeals affirmed on different grounds, holding that because RCW 13.50.260(3) applied only to “order[s] and findings,” juvenile adjudications did not qualify because adjudications were judgments, not orders. The issue this case presented for the Washington Supreme Court's review was whether a juvenile adjudication could be vacated and sealed under RCW 13.50.260(3). Because the plain language of the statute grants trial courts discretion to vacate and seal both adjudications and diversions, the Supreme Court held that juvenile adjudications could be vacated and sealed under RCW 13.50.260(3). The Court reversed the Court of Appeals and remanded for a new hearing. View "Washington v. Garza" on Justia Law

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In September 2019, the Department filed a dependency petition after taking six-year-old A.H. and her younger half-siblings into emergency protective custody and placing them in foster care. The petition alleged that the children’s mother had allowed A.H. to have unsupervised contact with an older relative suspected of having sexually molested the child. A.H.’s alleged father, J.H., had failed to provide care, support, or supervision for more than a year and it was indicated that his whereabouts were unknown, although the Department did have an address.The court of appeal reversed an order terminating J.H.'s parental rights. From the outset of the dependency proceedings through the jurisdiction and dispositional hearing, the Department’s efforts to locate J.H. and provide him notice requirements fell far short of the statutory requirements and left him in the dark about his parental status, how to assert his parental rights and how to participate in the proceedings. While its efforts may have improved later in the case, the Department never rectified its earlier failures by advising J.H. of his right to request counsel and his need to elevate his status to "presumed parent" to assert his parental rights. The Department violated his right to due process. View "In re A.H." on Justia Law

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The State of California appealed after a juvenile court declared defendant-respondent T.O. a ward of the court and placed him in a secure local facility for committing a sexual offense against his seven-year-old cousin. The State contended the juvenile court erred in refusing to impose mandatory sex offender registration pursuant to Penal Code section 290.008 because the court improperly relied on a strict interpretation of section 290.008 without adequately considering the illogical or consequences and harmonizing the statutory scheme. Based on the legislative intent in enacting changes to the juvenile delinquency provisions and the plain language of section 290.008, the Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment. View "In re T.O." on Justia Law

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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