Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court
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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this matter to the juvenile court for further proceedings, holding that, for revocation of pretrial probation in the juvenile court based on a new criminal offense, the Commonwealth must prove that there is probable cause to believe that the juvenile committed the offense. At issue in this case was the standard of proof and procedural requirements necessary for the revocation of pretrial probation in the juvenile court. The Supreme Judicial Court held (1) Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 276, 58B does not govern the revocation of pretrial probation of a juvenile; (2) to revoke a juvenile's pretrial probation based on a new criminal offense, a judge must find probable cause that the juvenile committed the offense, and all other violations must be proved, at an evidentiary hearing, by a preponderance of the evidence; and (3) for a revocation of a juvenile's pretrial probation, due process requires notice of the alleged violations, the opportunity to be heard, and a judicial finding that the juvenile committed the violation. View "Commonwealth v. Preston P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated a juvenile court judge's decision to adjudicate Juvenile delinquent for disturbing a school assembly, in violation of Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 272, 40 and declining to apply the amended statute, as appearing in St. 2018, ch. 69, 159, holding that St. 2018 ch. 69, 159 should be applied retroactively to cases pending on April 13, 2018. The complaint charging Defendant of disturbing a school assembly issued on February 20, 2018. On April 13, 2018, the Legislature struck the former statute in its entirety and replaced it. The juvenile court judge declined to apply the amended statute retroactively to Juvenile's conduct, and Juvenile was adjudicated delinquent. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the delinquency adjudication and remanded the matter to the juvenile court for dismissal of the complaint, holding that because prospective application of St. 2018, ch. 69, 159 would be repugnant to the purpose of the Legislature's amendment of the school assembly statute, the statute applies retroactively to cases that were pending as of April 13, 2018. View "Commonwealth v. Ashe A." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court remanded this case for entry of a judgment vacating the juvenile court's order denying Juvenile's motion to dismiss a delinquency complaint issued against him, holding that the juvenile court judge erred in deciding that a probable cause finding in a prior case was sufficient to establish that the instant complaint was not the juvenile's "first offense" of a six months or less misdemeanor under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 119, 52. A delinquency complaint issued against Juvenile that charged him with a misdemeanor that carried a maximum penalty of imprisonment of less than six months. Juvenile moved to dismiss the complaint, arguing that because he had not previously been adjudicated delinquent for any offense, the charge must be dismissed because it was a "first offense" under section 52. The juvenile court denied the motion, determining that because Juvenile had previously been charged with a separate offense for which probable cause had been found, under the amended statute the new charge was not the Juvenile's first offense. The Supreme Judicial Court remanded the matter, holding (1) the term "first offense" under section 52 means a first adjudication of delinquency; and (2) a first offense under the statute can include an offense that did not result in a prior delinquency. View "Wallace W. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's sentence of three consecutive terms of life imprisonment, with the possibility of parole after forty-five years, in connection with his conviction of three counts of murder in the first degree, holding that the sentence was within constitutional bounds. Defendant was a juvenile homicide offender and sought resentencing when he was well into adulthood. After the Supreme Judicial Court decided Commonwealth v. Costa, 472 Mass. 139 (2015), the Commonwealth conceded that Defendant was entitled to a resentencing hearing. After a hearing, the sentencing judge reinstated Defendant's sentence. Defendant then filed an application with the Supreme Court pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 278, 33E for leave to appeal from the resentencing judge's ruling, as well as a motion for direct entry of the appeal. The single justice directed entry of the appeal on the question of whether a juvenile homicide offender may be required to serve forty-five years in prison before his first opportunity to seek release based on rehabilitation. The Supreme Judicial Court held that Defendant's sentence did not constitute cruel or unusual punishment in violation of article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. View "Commonwealth v. LaPlante" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the motion judges' denial of two juveniles' motions to dismiss and remanded these matters to the juvenile court with directions to dismiss each case, holding that the amended definition of "delinquent child" should be applied retroactively to cases pending on July 12, 2018. On or after July 12, 2018, as a result of the enactment of St. 2018, ch. 69, a child who commits an offense before the age of twelve or who commits an infraction or a first offense of a misdemeanor for which the punishment is a fine or imprisonment for not more than six months can no longer be adjudicated a "delinquent child." These cases concerned juveniles who allegedly committed offenses before July 12, 2018 but whose cases remained pending before the juvenile court on or after that date. The juveniles filed motions to dismiss the charges against them on the grounds that the Act's definition of "delinquent child" should apply retroactively to their cases. The motion judges denied the motions. The Supreme Judicial Court granted the juveniles' interlocutory petitions for extraordinary relief pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3, holding that the juveniles in these cases were not subject to the Juvenile Court's jurisdiction. View "Lazlo L. v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed Defendant's conviction of murder in the second degree and the order denying his motion for a new trial, holding that Defendant's sentence was constitutional and that no prejudicial error occurred in the proceedings below. Defendant, who was seventeen years of age at the time of the murder, was sentenced to a mandatory term of life imprisonment with eligibility for parole after fifteen years. The Supreme Judicial Court disagreed, holding (1) a mandatory life sentence with parole eligibility after fifteen years for a juvenile homicide offender convicted of murder in the second degree is constitutional; (2) the judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion to continue his sentence so that he could present evidence related to his juvenile status; (3) the judge did not err in denying Defendant's request to instruct the jury on accident; (4) Defendant's counsel was not ineffective for not requesting other jury instructions; and (5) the judge did not err in denying Defendant's motion to suppress the warrantless "pinging" of Defendant's cellular telephone because no evidence came from the search. View "Commonwealth v. Lugo" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court reversed the superior court judge’s denial of Defendant’s motion for resentencing, holding that Defendant, a juvenile convicted of armed home invasion, was sentenced to a mandatory minimum term exceeding that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder without a hearing under Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460, 477-478 (2012), in violation of the requirements announced in Commonwealth v. Perez, 477 Mass. 677 (2017) (Perez I), and refined in Commonwealth v. Perez, 480 Mass. __ (2018) (Perez II), also decided today. Defendant was adjudicated a youthful offender on indictments charging armed home invasion and various related offenses and was sentenced to a mandatory minimum prison term of twenty years to twenty years and one day on the armed him invasion charge. Defendant later filed a motion for relief from unlawful restraint, which the juvenile court judge denied. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order denying Defendant’s motion and remanded to the juvenile court for resentencing, holding that Defendant’s sentence violated the proportionality requirement inherent in article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. View "Commonwealth v. Lutskov" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that its decision in Commonwealth v. Perez, 477 Mass. 677 (2017) (Perez I), requires sentencing judges to follow an individualized process that allows for the consideration of mitigating circumstances related to the juvenile's age and youthful characteristics before imposing a sentence with a longer period of incarceration prior to eligibility for parole than that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder. In Perez I, the Supreme Judicial Court determined that Defendant, a juvenile, received a sentence for his nonhomicide offenses that was presumptively disproportionate under article 26 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights because the time he would serve prior to parole eligibility exceeded that applicable to a juvenile convicted of murder. On remand, a superior court judge held a hearing to determine whether, in light of the factors articulated in Miller v. Alabama, 467 U.S. 460, 477-478 (2012), the case presented extraordinary circumstances justifying a longer parole eligibility period. The judge then concluded that extraordinary circumstances were present and denied Defendant’s motion for resentencing. The Supreme Judicial Court vacated the order and remanded for resentencing, holding that the hearing judge erred in finding extraordinary circumstances in this case. View "Commonwealth v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court held that, in light of Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012), juvenile delinquency adjudications for violent offenses may serve as predicate offenses for adults under the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, 10G. Defendant was indicted at age eighteen for unlawful possession of a firearm. Defendant had twice between adjudicated delinquent for crimes of violence, and therefore, the Commonwealth charged Defendant with violating the ACCA. While the case was proceeding, a superior court judge sua sponte raised the issue of whether it was a violation of due process to use juvenile adjudications to enhance sentencing in the same manner as adult convictions. The Supreme Judicial Court allowed Defendant’s application for direct appellate review and held that qualifying juvenile adjudications may be used as a predicate offense for enhanced penalties under Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 269, 10G. View "Commonwealth v. Baez" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed the judgment of a single justice denying Juvenile’s petition filed pursuant to Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 challenging the superior court judge’s denial of Juvenile’s petition for bail review, holding that the single justice did not err or abuse his discretion in denying Juvenile’s petition seeking review of the bail determination. Juvenile was charged in a delinquency complaint with being an accessory to murder after the fact and assault and battery by means of a dangerous weapon. A juvenile court judge set bail at $50,000. Juvenile petitioned for a review of the bail determination. The superior court judge denied the petition. The Supreme Judicial Court affirmed, holding (1) the bail determination was appropriately made, and there was no violation of Juvenile’s rights; and (2) therefore, the single justice did not err in denying Juvenile’s Mass. Gen. Laws ch. 211, 3 petition. View "Juvenile v. Commonwealth" on Justia Law