Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Indiana
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court convicting Defendant of attempted murder, holding that the trial court did not err in not allowing Defendant's mother as a witness to stay in the courtroom during Defendant's trial.Defendant was fifteen years old when he was waived into adult criminal court and convicted. Before trial, the State listed Defendant's mother as a potential witness, and at trial, the State requested a separation of witnesses order. The court ordered Defendant's mother to leave the courtroom, and the State never called her to testify. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) a child in adult criminal court may use Ind. R. Evid. 615(c) to establish that a parent is "essential" to the presentation of the defense and is thus excluded from a witness separation order; (2) Defendant did not make the requisite showing under the rule; (3) Defendant waived his argument that a juvenile defendant has a due process right to have a parent present for criminal proceedings; and (4) Defendant's challenges to his sentence were unavailing. View "Harris v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated K.C.G.'s delinquency adjudication and the modification of his probation based on that adjudication, holding that the juvenile court lacked subject matter jurisdiction.The delinquency at issue alleged that sixteen-year-old K.C.G. committed the offense of dangerous possession of a firearm in violation of Ind. Code 35-47-10-5. The juvenile court adjudicated K.C.G. a delinquent and modified his probation. On appeal, Defendant argued that the plain terms of the dangerous-possession statute showed it could not be a delinquent act. The Supreme Court vacated the delinquency adjudication, holding that because the statute defines the offense solely in terms of a "child" with an unauthorized firearm, the dangerous-possession statute does not apply to adults, and therefore, the State's petition did not allege a jurisdictional prerequisite - that K.C.G.'s conduct was "an act that would be an offense if committed by an adult." View "K.C.G. v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant's maximum 138-year sentence imposed for crimes Defendant committed as a juvenile and revised the sentence to a total sentence of eighty-eight years, holding that the 138-year sentence was inappropriate.Defendant was seventeen years old when he and two others committed murder in 1991. Defendant received an aggregate sentence of 138 years, which was the maximum possible term-of-years sentence. In 2016, Defendant filed a verified petition for post-conviction relief challenging the propriety of his sentence in light of the fact that he was a juvenile when he committed the crimes. The post-conviction court granted the petition and imposed an aggregate sixty-eight-year sentence. The Supreme Court affirmed the order granting relief and revisited its prior decision regarding the appropriateness of his sentence but revised the sentence to an aggregate term of eighty-eight years, holding (1) the doctrine of res judicata does not bar consideration of Defendant's appropriateness argument due to two major shifts in the law; and (2) Defendant's maximum term-of-years sentence imposed for crimes he committed as a juvenile was inappropriate. View "State v. Stidham" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court vacated the juvenile court's adjudication of K.C.G. as a delinquent child for dangerously possessing a firearm, as well as its modification of K.C.G.'s probation based on that ruling, holding that the juvenile court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction.The delinquency petition here alleged that K.C.G., age sixteen, committed the offense of dangerous possession of a firearm. After a hearing, the juvenile court adjudicated him a delinquent and modified his probation. The Supreme Court vacated the adjudication, holding that the juvenile court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction because the State's petition did not allege a jurisdictional prerequisite - that K.C.G.'s conduct was "an act that would be an offense if committed by an adult." View "K.C.G. v. State" on Justia Law

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In these consolidated appeals, the Supreme Court held that under the clear and unambiguous language of several relevant statutes, a juvenile court did not have subject matter jurisdiction to waive two individuals into adult criminal court because neither fit the definition of a "child" at the time their respective delinquency petitions were filed.The State filed juvenile delinquency petitions against D.P. and N.B. for committing, when they were under the age of eighteen, what would be felony child molesting if committed by an adult. Both individuals were twenty-one or older at the time the delinquency petitions were filed. The State requested that D.P. and N.B. be waived into adult criminal court, and D.P. and N.B. moved to dismiss their respective cases for lack of subject matter jurisdiction. The motion to dismiss was denied in D.P.'s case and was granted in N.B.'s case. The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court's dismissal in N.B. and reversed in D.P. and remanded with instructions to grant the motion to dismiss, holding that a juvenile court does not have subject matter jurisdiction to waive an alleged delinquent offender into adult criminal court if the individual is no longer a "child." View "D.P. v. State" 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 judgment of the trial court making two teenagers wards of the Indiana Department of Correction, holding that the teenagers failed to show that their remote participation in their hearings resulted in fundamental error but closed this opinion with guidance so that this procedural story would not be repeated.The teenagers in this case each appeared by Skype at a hearing to decide whether their juvenile dispositional decrees should be modified to make them wards of the Department of Correction. The teenagers did not object to participating remotely, but nothing in the record indicated that they agreed to do so or that the trial court found good cause for the remote participation. Both teenagers were made wards of the Department of Correction after the hearings. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) Indiana Administrative Rule 14(B) governs the use of telephones and audiovisual telecommunication tools in juvenile disposition-modification hearings; but (2) because the teenagers failed to object to the court's noncompliance with Rule 14(B) and failed to demonstrate fundamental error, the teenagers waived the issue. View "C.S. v. State" on Justia Law

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At issue in this case was whether to extend the holding in Tumulty v. State, 666 N.E.2d 394 (Ind. 1996) that a adult criminal defendant cannot challenge the validity of his guilty plea on direct appeal to an agreed delinquency adjudication. The Supreme Court held in this case that before Juvenile may pursue an appeal he must first seek relief from the trial court under Trial Rule 60(B).Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) juveniles cannot immediately challenge on direct appeal any errors concerning their agreed adjudication, but because juveniles are not eligible for post-conviction relief, before pursuing their constitutional right to appeal, they must first assert any claims of error concerning their agreed judgment in a request for post-judgment relief filed with the juvenile court; and (2) juveniles who seek that relief in post-judgment proceedings have a statutory right to counsel under Ind. Code 31-32. View "J.W. v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court adjudicating B.T.E. a juvenile delinquent on two counts, including attempted aggravated battery, for plotting to shoot up and blow up his high school, holding that there was sufficient evidence to support the attempted aggravated battery conviction.B.T.E. took several steps to implement his plot to blow up his high school, targeting two of his classmates to die. The trial court adjudicated B.T.E. a delinquent for attempted aggravated battery and conspiracy to commit aggravated battery. On appeal, B.T.E. argued that there was insufficient evidence that he took the required “substantial step” toward committing aggravated battery under Indiana’s criminal-attempt statute, and instead, that his actions were “mere preparation.” The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that B.T.E.’s affirmative conduct amounted to a substantial step toward the commission of aggravated battery. View "B.T.E. v. State" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the determination of the trial court finding that R.R., a juvenile, violated his probation and adjudicating him a delinquent for auto theft and false informing, holding that the trial court violated R.R.’s right to be present at the fact-finding hearing by holding hearing in R.R.’s absence.On appeal, R.R. argued that juveniles have a due process right to be present at fact-finding hearings on a delinquency charge and that the trial court violated this right by holding the hearing in his absence. The Supreme Court assumed without deciding that juveniles are entitled to be present at fact-finding hearings and held (1) a juvenile can waive his right to be present at a fact-finding hearing but must do so according to the juvenile waiver-of-rights statute; (2) there was no waiver of R.R.’s right to be present, and therefore, the trial court violated that right by holding the fact-finding hearing in R.R.’s absence; and (3) the absurdity doctrine did not apply to this case. View "R.R. v. State" on Justia Law