Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Kentucky Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court vacated the judgment of the circuit court sentencing Defendant to life in prison plus fifty years, holding that the violent offender statute is not applicable to youthful offenders for purposes of consideration of probation, even if they are sentenced after they have reached the age of majority.Defendant committed the crimes for which he was convicted when he was seventeen years old. The district court transferred the charges to circuit court for Defendant's prosecution as a youthful offender. Defendant was nineteen years old when he pleaded guilty pursuant to plea agreements to murder, first-degree robbery, and other crimes. Under the assumption that Defendant was ineligible for probation, the trial court imposed a life sentence with a fifty-year sentence to run consecutively. The Supreme Court vacated the judgment, holding (1) Kentucky's Juvenile Code and relevant caselaw support the conclusion that the violent offender statute is not applicable to youthful offenders for purposes of consideration of probation, even if they are sentenced after they reach the age of eighteen years and five months; and (2) the trial court erred in failing to consider probation or other forms of conditional discharge as possible alternatives. View "Thomas v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the finding of the district court juvenile session that B.H. was incompetent to stand trial and dismissing the charges against him.B.H. was arrested for first-degree robbery and murder that occurred before he sustained severe injuries in an automobile accident. The Commonwealth moved to transfer B.H.’s case to circuit court. B.H. moved for a competency evaluation. The district court granted B.H.’s motion for a competency evaluation, conducted a competency hearing, and found B.H. incompetent to stand trial and unlikely to attain competency in the foreseeable future. The court then dismissed the charges without prejudice. On appeal, the court of appeals held that the Commonwealth had waived its right to contest any error by failing to object to the competency determination at any stage of litigation prior to discretionary review with the court of appeals. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the juvenile session of the district court had subject matter jurisdiction to conduct a competency hearing, and the Commonwealth waived its right to object to lack of particular case jurisdiction; and (2) the federal Constitution and the laws of the Commonwealth support holding competency hearings, if necessary, prior to transfer proceedings. View "Commonwealth v. B.H." on Justia Law

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Life without parole (LWOP) for juveniles does not always offend the federal or Kentucky Constitutions, so long as it comports with a discretionary scheme and the defendant has a meaningful opportunity for the jury to consider mitigating evidence.Appellant was under the age of eighteen when he participated in the murder of two people and the deadly assault of a twelve-year-old girl. The circuit court sentenced Appellant to LWOP. In this appeal from the denial of relief on Appellant’s third Ky. R. Criminal. P. 11.42 motion and his second Ky. R. Civ. P. 60.02 motion, the Supreme Court held (1) Appellant’s sentencing was constitutionally permissible; but (2) under this Court’s more recent rulings regarding penalties allowable under the juvenile code, Appellant’s sentence was statutorily prohibited. Consequently, the Court remanded this case for the trial court to impose the lawful sentence of LWOP for twenty-five years. View "Phon v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Defendant was required to register as a sex offender in Michigan because he was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent for a sex offense. Defendant later moved to Kentucky, where he was charged with failing to register under the Kentucky Sex Offender Registration Act. Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to the charge. The court of appeals affirmed on appeal, concluding that Defendant was required to register under the plain language of the Act. Defendant appealed, claiming that he was not required to register under the Act because he was a juvenile and was not “convicted” of any crime. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the statute requires registration in the state of Kentucky of any person who was required to register in another state upon that person’s relocation; and (2) because Defendant was required to register in Michigan, he was also required to register in Kentucky. View "Murphy v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The juvenile Appellant in this case, "Bill," a fifteen-year-old eighth-grade boy, was charged with multiple public offenses based on his sexual conduct with his thirteen-year-old girlfriend "Carol", who was not charged. He entered an unconditional admission to amended charges, and the district court entered an adjudication finding that he committed the alleged conduct. After disposition of his case, he appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed. The Court of Appeals denied his motion for discretionary review, but the Supreme Court granted it initially to address constitutional challenges that Bill raised. After consideration of those challenges, the Supreme Court concluded that the appeal should have been dismissed by the circuit court, with no consideration of any of the substantive issues raised, because Bill entered an unconditional admission to the offenses and thereby waived an appeal in this case. View "B. H. v. Kentucky" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a juvenile, was charged with misdemeanor sexual misconduct and felony possession of matter portraying a sexual performance by a minor based on his sexual conduct with his also-underage girlfriend. Appellant entered an unconditional admission to amended charges. The district court subsequently entered an adjudication finding that Appellant committed the alleged conduct. The circuit court affirmed. The Court of Appeals denied Appellant’s motion for discretionary review. The Supreme Court initially granted discretionary review to address Appellant’s constitutional claims. However, because Appellant entered what amounts to an unconditional guilty plea, the Supreme Court remanded the matter with directions that the appeal be dismissed, holding that Appellant waived his right to an appeal in this case. View "B.H. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Appellant, a juvenile, entered an unconditional admission to amended charges of public offenses based on his sexual conduct with his also-underage girlfriend. The district court entered an adjudication finding that Appellant committed the alleged conduct. The circuit court affirmed on appeal. The court of appeals denied Appellant’s motion for discretionary review. The Supreme Court granted the motion for discretionary review and vacated the decision of the circuit court, holding that because Appellant entered into his admission unconditionally, he waived his right to appeal, and therefore, the lower court should not have considered his claims. View "B.H. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Appellant was indicted for the robbery and murder of Caesaro Gomez. Appellant, who was sixteen years old at the time of the crimes, was tried as a youthful offender and found guilty by a circuit court jury of murder, first-degree robbery, and intimidating a participant in the legal process. Appellant was sentenced to life imprisonment. The Supreme Court affirmed the conviction and sentence, holding (1) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in denying Appellant's motion to strike for cause; (2) Appellant's argument regarding the validity of Ky. R. Crim. P. 9.40 was unpreserved for appellate review; and (3) the trial court did not err in sentencing Appellant. View "Grider v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Defendant was a juvenile who admitted giving hydrocodone to another student. Defendant's confession was made directly in answer to questions from the school assistant principal, who was working with a deputy sheriff (School Resource Officer or SRO), also present. The SRO did not read Defendant his Miranda rights before the questioning. Defendant was subsequently charged with possessing and dispensing a controlled substance, a felony, in a juvenile petition. After unsuccessfully filing a motion to suppress, Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to the charge. Defendant subsequently appealed the denial of his motion. At issue before the Supreme Court was whether a student is entitled to the benefit of the Miranda warnings before being questioned by a school official in conjunction with a law enforcement officer, the SRO, when he is subject to criminal charges. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the statements Defendant made before law enforcement when he was questioned by the assistant principal must be suppressed because he was in custody and was not given the Miranda warnings. View "N.C. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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Defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of first-degree robbery. Defendant was a minor at the time he committed the felonies, and because the offenses involved a firearm, Defendant was automatically transferred to the circuit court as a youthful offender to be tried as an adult. The trial court determined Defendant should be granted probation on his ten-year sentence. The trial court subsequently revoked Defendant's probation and sentenced him to the Department of Corrections (DOC) to serve his sentence. The DOC classified Defendant as a violent offender, a status that restricted Defendant's parole eligibility. Defendant filed a declaration of rights action, arguing that the DOC erred in classifying him as a violent offender because he was a youthful offender. The circuit court agreed. The court of appeals reversed, holding that the Violent Offender Statute applied to youthful offenders for purposes of parole eligibility. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the parole-eligibility limitations of the Violent Offender Statute apply to youthful offenders; and (2) therefore, the DOC correctly classified Defendant as a violent offender subject to that statute's parole-eligibility restrictions. View "Edwards v. Harrod" on Justia Law