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IBA: Juvenile Delinquency 101

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delameter-joe-mug.jpgBy Joe Delamater, Deputy Prosecutor, Juvenile Repeat Offender Unit, Marion County Prosecutor’s Office

Juvenile delinquency cases are unique. Hopefully, I can highlight some areas of delinquency law to help familiarize you with the system. Juvenile delinquency matters are no different than any other case. You are ready once you get over the new terminology and the case-by-case idiosyncrasies.

First know that, distinct from criminal courts, the juvenile court is your gatekeeper. Juvenile courts are required to assess what the best care, treatment and rehabilitation is for each child. The court decides whether charges are approved for filing or whether to afford the child an “informal adjustment,” which is akin to an adult diversion. The court decides whether a child is waived into adult court to face charges, whether commitment to the Department of Correction is appropriate, and how long the child stays on probation. All of this is decided in the best interests of the child and the community. Once you recognize how the court operates all of the rest falls in place around it.

Juvenile delinquency cases are civil. However, the Indiana Juvenile Code adopts the rules governing criminal procedures. IC § 31-32-1-1. Therefore, the burden of proof, trial rules, and rules of evidence that you know and love apply here. The juvenile code, specifically IC § 31-30, 31-32 and 31-37, are your juvenile bible. Know and love these sections because the juvenile code trumps any adopted provisions.

Because these cases are civil, many labels are different. Juveniles aren’t convicted; they are adjudicated delinquent. IC § 31-32-2-6. Therefore, enhancements based on prior convictions do not apply to juveniles. Moreover, juvenile courts enter a dispositional order and not a sentence. Like an adult pre-sentence investigation report (PSI), a pre-dispositional report is created by probation and is similar to the PSI. The accused are respondents and not defendants. The accused enters an admission or denial as they cannot be found “guilty or “not guilty.”

Another difference is the involvement of the probation department. It is completely statutory and rather thorough. IC § 31-31-5-4. Prior to the Initial Hearing, a probation officer (P.O.) performs a preliminary inquiry into various aspects of the child’s and family’s life. The depth of this will vary by county. In Marion County, at the Initial Hearing, a P.O. makes recommendations to the court regarding conditions of release based on their preliminary inquiry. The P.O. stays involved throughout the case and periodically reports back to the court. The P.O. will also make a recommendation at disposition.

Juvenile courts lacks jurisdiction for certain crimes although committed by juveniles. IC § 31-30-1-4. Know that, if your client is sixteen or seventeen, there are a number of crimes that may be filed in adult court. The State can also seek “waiver” and request that a juvenile be tried as an adult when they reach a certain age (this varies by the type of allegation.) Waiver can be requested on any felony under five possible sections. Under Indiana Code §§ 31-30-3-2 through 31-30-3-6, the juvenile court must find both probable cause and that it would be in the “best interests of the child and of the safety and welfare of the community” to be tried as an adult. Sections 4, 5 and 6 are mandatory waiver sections with a presumption of those “best interests” that must be rebutted by the respondent. Sections 2 and 3 are discretionary with part of the State’s burden being to prove the best interests.

Juvenile court has the ability to maintain jurisdiction until the child reaches the age of twenty-one unless sooner discharged. Therefore, juveniles are on probation for as long as the court deems appropriate. There are no orders of “six months” here or “eighteen months” there.

The term of probation lasts until the court feels that the juvenile has been adequately treated and rehabilitated. Remember, the court is the gatekeeper.

Treatment and programs range from nothing (time-served is the adult terminology) up to being committed to the Indiana Department of Correction (to be placed at a juvenile-only facility.) In between those extremes come a variety of services that will vary county to county. The services will attempt to address parts of the juvenile’s life that need help. It could be substance abuse treatment, counseling and therapy, education, and any other area that is felt will help rehabilitate the child. These goals can be accomplished from in-home treatment, community-based services, or secured treatment facilities.

While only a cursory review of the system, hopefully this helps give you the basics of delinquency matters.•

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  1. Where may I find an attorney working Pro Bono? Many issues with divorce, my Disability, distribution of IRA's, property, money's and pressured into agreement by my attorney. Leaving me far less than 5% of all after 15 years of marriage. No money to appeal, disabled living on disability income. Attorney's decision brought forward to judge, no evidence ever to finalize divorce. Just 2 weeks ago. Please help.

  2. For the record no one could answer the equal protection / substantive due process challenge I issued in the first post below. The lawless and accountable only to power bureaucrats never did either. All who interface with the Indiana law examiners or JLAP be warned.

  3. Hi there I really need help with getting my old divorce case back into court - I am still paying support on a 24 year old who has not been in school since age 16 - now living independent. My visitation with my 14 year old has never been modified; however, when convenient for her I can have him... I am paying past balance from over due support, yet earn several thousand dollars less. I would contact my original attorney but he basically molest me multiple times in Indy when I would visit.. Todd Woodmansee - I had just came out and had know idea what to do... I have heard he no longer practices. Please help1

  4. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  5. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

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