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Admission of the videotaped confession constitutes fundamental error

September 25, 2012

The true finding that a juvenile committed an act that would constitute the offense of attempted burglary, a class B felony, was reversed by the Indiana Court of Appeals on the grounds the trial court made a fundamental error in admitting into evidence the juvenile’s videotaped confession.

However, in R.W. v. State of Indiana, No.49A02-1112-JV-1187, the COA remanded with instructions for the trial court to enter a true finding of criminal mischief.  

R.W., the juvenile, was caught by a homeowner after he broke a window and tried to reach through the shattered glass to lift the window. The homeowner knew R.W. and Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department found the juvenile, took him to a roll call location for an interview, and contacted his mother.

The juvenile and his mother were given a waiver-of-rights form which they signed incorrectly. In the ensuing recorded interview, R.W. admitted that he attempted to break into the house in order to steal Xbox games.

The state filed a delinquency petition in conjunction with this incident alleging that R.W. had committed acts that would constitute the offenses of burglary as a class B felony and criminal mischief as a class B misdemeanor if committed by an adult.

When the state sought to introduce R.W’s videotaped confession, the juvenile objected on the grounds that neither he nor his mother was asked as to each individual right if they understood the consequences of giving those up.

On appeal, R.W. claimed the confession was inadmissible because the waiver form does not indicate that his mother waived R.W.’s rights. He acknowledged he objected to the introduction of the confession on different grounds for the appeal than he did at trial, but he argued the admission constituted a fundamental error.

The Court of Appeals agreed, finding the only evidence supporting the true finding of attempted burglary is the videotaped confession. The court concluded the trial court committed fundamental error in admitting R.W.’s videotaped confession and the true finding must be reversed.

However, the court did find sufficient evidence exists to establish the remaining elements of burglary which also constitute every element of the offense of criminal mischief.

 

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