Indiana’s Juvenile Mental Health Statute’s limited immunity prohibits both use and derivative use of a juvenile’s statements to prove delinquency, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled. The justices were able to come to the conclusion without addressing the question of the statute’s constitutionality.
I.T. was ordered into treatment as a condition of his probation after admitting to conduct that would be Class B felony child molesting if committed by an adult. He was ordered to undergo treatment, including therapeutic polygraph examinations. During one of those exams, I.T. admitted to molesting two other children. The state filed a delinquency petition based on I.T.’s admission to his therapist, and it admits that it had no other independent evidence beyond the statement.
The juvenile court initially approved the new petition, but then granted I.T.’s motion to dismiss, citing I.C. 31-32-2-2.5(b), the Juvenile Mental Health Statute. The state appealed instead of refiling based on other evidence. The Court of Appeals held the state couldn’t appeal.
In State of Indiana v. I.T., 20S03-1309-JV-583, the justices concluded that the state could appeal because the trial court essentially suppressed evidence ending the proceeding. And sidestepping addressing the constitutionality of the statute, the justices were able to reconcile the limited immunity in part (b) of the statute with the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination and construe the statute to conform to that privilege.
The statute’s terms clearly confer use immunity, but do not necessarily extend to derivative use immunity, Justice Loretta Rush wrote. But failing to provide derivative use immunity would raise a serious doubt about the statute’s constitutionality. The justices decided not to directly answer the constitutional question and instead looked at the history of the statute. Rush wrote that derivative use immunity is consistent with the statute’s history and purpose as well as the purposes of the juvenile code in general. The Juvenile Mental Health Statute went into effect in 2007 after the Indiana State Bar Association found that more than 50 percent of youth detained in Indiana have mental health and/or substance abuse problems.
Failing to prohibit derivative use would mean that I.T. and other juvenile offenders would be discouraged from participating openly in treatment to reduce their likelihood of reoffending, Rush wrote.
Because the statute must be construed to provide use and derivative use immunity, the trial court reached the correct result, the justices held.
“Our conclusion that the probable cause affidavit violates the Juvenile Mental Health Statute does not leave the State without recourse, nor does it relieve a juvenile from consequences based on disclosures during court-ordered treatment. The Statute provides that the State may use a juvenile’s statements in treatment to revoke or modify probation,” Rush wrote. “Moreover, the juvenile’s statements may be used for purposes other than proving delinquency, such as at a CHINS hearing, at an expungement hearing, or at a Sex-Offender Registry hearing. … And the Juvenile Mental Health Statute does not prevent the State from introducing evidence of a juvenile’s delinquency, if it can ‘affirmative[ly] . . . prove that the evidence it proposes to use is derived from a legitimate source wholly independent of the compelled testimony.’”