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Court could find juvenile must register as sex offender

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A Montgomery Circuit Court had subject matter jurisdiction to order a juvenile to register as a sex offender for 10 years, the Indiana Court of Appeals held Monday.

T.W. appealed the order that he register as a sex offender for 10 years following his adjudication as a delinquent child for committing what would be two counts of Class C felony child molesting if committed by an adult. After he was discharged from the Indiana Department of Correction, the state filed the petition for T.W. to register as a sex offender. The trial court appointed two psychologists to evaluate him; T.W.’s attorney was never notified about the petition for T.W. to register as a sex offender or that he was being evaluated by psychologists.

The psychologists testified, over T.W.’s objection, that there was a high risk he would re-offend.

T.W. challenged the order on two issues: that the trial court didn’t have subject matter jurisdiction to make him register and that the two psychologists shouldn’t have been allowed to testify because his attorney hadn’t been notified about the evaluation and their testimonies were protected by the psychologist-patient privilege.

In T.W. v. State of Indiana, No. 54A01-1103-JV-125, the Court of Appeals rejected T.W.’s argument that Wallace v. State, 905 N.E.2d 371 (Ind. 2009), prevents him from being ordered to register as a sex offender. The state’s Juvenile Code doesn’t prohibit a juvenile court or a court with juvenile jurisdiction – as is the case here – from imposing what might be called “punishment” upon a juvenile, wrote Judge Michael Barnes. Another purpose of the code is to promote public safety, and the sex offender registry is directly related to the protection of the public.

“Although the sex offender registry statutes are not part of the Juvenile Code, it is logical to assume that the General Assembly intended courts with juvenile jurisdiction to also have subject matter jurisdiction to make a sex offender registry finding,” he wrote.

T.W. cited no authority to support his argument that his attorney should have been notified about his evaluation by psychologists, and the judges compared it to a discovery violation in failing to disclose evidence. There’s nothing to indicate bad faith or deliberate malfeasance regarding the fact that T.W.’s attorney was not alerted to the fact that the evaluation would take place, and it’s doubtful T.W. even had a right to have an attorney present for those examinations, the court ruled.

The judges also concluded that the psychologists’ testimony was allowed under the “catch all” exception of Indiana Code 25-33-1-17(6), which allows for a psychologist to disclose information in “circumstances under which privileged communications is abrogated under the laws of Indiana.”

It would be impossible for a trial court to carry out the statutory mandate that a trial court consider expert testimony concerning whether a child is likely to repeat an offense if the statutory psychologist-patient privilege prevented it, wrote Judge Barnes. He noted the appellate court’s holding is consistent with a case involving the psychologist-patient privilege in the context of termination of parental rights proceedings.

“… there is no statute expressly abrogating the psychologist-patient privilege in juvenile sex offender registry proceedings. Nonetheless, we conclude that such proceedings under Indiana Code Chapter 11-8-8 necessarily present a situation in which the privilege ‘is abrogated under the laws of Indiana’ by implication, at least with respect to the question of whether a juvenile is likely to reoffend,” he wrote.

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  1. Access to the court (judiciary branch of government) is the REAL problem, NOT necessarily lack of access to an attorney. Unfortunately, I've lived in a legal and financial hell for the past six years due to a divorce (where I was, supposedly, represented by an attorney) in which I was defrauded of settlement and the other party (and helpers) enriched through the fraud. When I attempted to introduce evidence and testify (pro se) in a foreclosure/eviction, I was silenced (apparently on procedural grounds, as research I've done since indicates). I was thrown out of a residence which was to be sold, by a judge who refused to allow me to speak in (the supposedly "informal") small claims court where the eviction proceeding (by ex-brother-in-law) was held. Six years and I can't even get back on solid or stable ground ... having bank account seized twice, unlawfully ... and now, for the past year, being dragged into court - again, contrary to law and appellate decisions - by former attorney, who is trying to force payment from exempt funds. Friday will mark fifth appearance. Hopefully, I'll be allowed to speak. The situation I find myself in shouldn't even be possible, much less dragging out with no end in sight, for years. I've done nothing wrong, but am watching a lot of wrong being accomplished under court jurisdiction; only because I was married to someone who wanted and was granted a divorce (but was not willing to assume the responsibilities that come with granting the divorce). In fact, the recalcitrant party was enriched by well over $100k, although it was necessarily split with other actors. Pro bono help? It's a nice dream ... but that's all it is, for too many. Meanwhile, injustice marches on.

  2. Both sites mentioned in the article appear to be nonfunctional to date (March 28, 2017). http://indianalegalanswers.org/ returns a message stating the "server is taking too long to respond" and http://www.abafreelegalasnswers.org/ "can't find the server". Although this does not surprise me, it is disheartening to know that access to the judicial branch of government remains out of reach for too many citizens (for procedural rather than meritorious reasons) of Indiana. Any updates regarding this story?

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