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Judges uphold inpatient treatment for juvenile

April 30, 2012

Because the record shows that a juvenile’s placement at an inpatient treatment facility is consistent with the goals for the teen’s rehabilitation, the Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the juvenile court’s placement order. The judges also found they did not have jurisdiction to rule on the teen’s claim that the juvenile court violated his due process rights by accepting his conditional plea on a child molesting count.

D.A. was 13 when he was accused of touching a 3-year-old girl’s vagina. D.A. entered into a plea agreement where he admitted to Class B misdemeanor battery when committed by an adult in exchange for the state dismissing a Class B felony child molesting charge. D.A. also “conditionally” pleaded guilty to a Class C felony child molesting charge when committed by an adult; the juvenile court took his admission on that count under advisement and if he completed the terms of his probation successfully, the state would move to dismiss the count. If he violated his terms of probation, the court could proceed to disposition on the count.

At a hearing, D.A. admitted to touching the girl’s vagina, but the element of intent was never established. The juvenile court found sufficient factual basis to find the petition true. The probation department recommended formal probation with inpatient placement for sex offender counseling. D.A.’s attorney sought outpatient treatment. The juvenile judge ordered D.A. serve at the inpatient facility.

D.A. attempted to appeal the juvenile court’s acceptance of his conditional plea on the child molesting count, arguing that the evidence didn’t show his intent to arouse or satisfy his sexual desires, which is an element of the crime of child molesting. Because his plea on that count was conditional, it is equivalent to a withheld judgment and so there is no final judgment or appealable order from which to appeal, wrote Judge Edward Najam in D.A. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1108-JV-692. Thus, the appellate court does not have jurisdiction to resolve that issue.

The judges also found that D.A. can’t show that the dispositional hearing violated fundamental fairness. Based on the facts, the COA cannot say that the court abused its discretion in placing D.A. in the inpatient facility.

 

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