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Judges affirm finding teen is a CHINS

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The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the finding that a 17-year-old is a child in need of services, ruling that evidence of her drug test wasn't irrelevant and was properly admitted by the trial court.

Teenager S.W. argued the trial court erred by admitting evidence of her marijuana use and that the Miami County Department of Child Services didn't present sufficient evidence to prove she is a CHINS.

A police officer saw S.W. and her friend A.C. walking along a rural road 12 miles from S.W.'s home around 11 p.m. A.C.'s mother called police to report she had run away. The officer called S.W.'s parents but her father told the officer they weren't coming to get her and that the officer should deal with the situation.

S.W. spoke with a family case manager, who also couldn't get her parents to pick up the phone. S.W. admitted to previous drug use and abuse in the home and was placed in a temporary shelter. The trial court admitted evidence of S.W.'s positive drug test for marijuana over her objection at the fact-finding hearing and authorized the filing of a CHINS petition. The trial court eventually determined S.W. is a CHINS.

The appellate court upheld that finding in In the matter of S.W., a child in need of services v. Indiana Department of Child Services, No. 52A05-0910-JV-1005. S.W. argued she was illegally detained when the drug test was administered so it shouldn't have been admitted, but S.W. was never illegally detained. The police officer attempted to have her parents pick her up but they refused. The officer then called DCS and took S.W. to the police station to ensure her safety, wrote Judge Patricia Riley. At the time of the drug test, DCS had probable cause to believe S.W. was a CHINS due to lack of supervision by her parents and received an order for temporary custody.

The Court of Appeals also rejected S.W.'s argument that the evidence of the drug use is irrelevant.

"Although an adequately supervised teenager may find ways in which to experiment with illicit drugs, a child's drug use can be a direct product of a lack of parental supervision," which would be relevant to the CHINS proceedings, wrote Judge Riley.

The judges also found S.W. was provided notice that her drug use could be an issue. S.W. told the case manager that domestic violence, drug use and abuse continued to happen in her home following DCS' previous involvement with the family one year earlier, so that put her and her family on notice that drug use by anyone in the home could be an issue in the CHINS proceeding, wrote Judge Riley.

Her parents refused to pick S.W. up, didn't answer repeated phone calls, and didn't inquire about her whereabouts when she didn't return home that night. Based on her parents actions, and S.W.'s statement about the previous drug abuse and violence in the home, DCS presented sufficient evidence to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that S.W.'s physical or mental condition was seriously endangered by her parents' refusal or neglect to provide necessary supervision, wrote the judge.

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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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