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Single order can have more than 1 disposition

March 10, 2009

The Indiana Supreme Court has clarified juvenile caselaw, telling trial courts they can order a juvenile be committed to the Department of Correction and in the same order also require probation after release.

A unanimous decision came today in R.J.G. v. State of Indiana, No. 64S04-0809-JV-483, which originated in Porter Circuit's Juvenile Division and strikes at the how juvenile judges are able to craft sentences best suited for a particular child's case. R.J.G. was 15 years old in the spring of 2007 when he, after selling marijuana to a friend, pointed a loaded gun at that person. It accidentally discharged and shot that friend in the mouth. Police later recovered drugs and paraphernalia at his home, and he eventually pleaded guilty to felony criminal recklessness and misdemeanor marijuana possession.

Juvenile Judge Mary Harper concluded that he should be committed to the Indiana Boys School until age 18, followed by supervised probation that included counseling and community service until age 21. The juvenile appealed, arguing the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction to order both his DOC commitment and probation in the same order. The Court of Appeals affirmed that decision last year and held the juvenile court did have jurisdiction to order probation following commitment, despite its earlier decision in J.J.M. v. State, 779 N.E.2d 602, 607 (Ind. Ct. App. 2002). 

In J.J.M., the appellate panel decided that a juvenile court loses jurisdiction after ordering guardianship of a child to the DOC and it's not able to order probation on top of commitment.

"We think J.J.M. was incorrect on this point," Justice Ted Boehm wrote in this R.J.G ruling, finding that Indiana Code § 31-37-19-5 and 6 give juvenile courts the ability to order at least one disposition, potentially more. "Nothing prevents this from being accomplished in the same order. And there is no jurisdictional bar to ordering more than one disposition in the same order."

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