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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. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

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