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Judges dismiss state’s appeal regarding juvenile delinquency petition

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The Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that the state has no statutory right to appeal a juvenile court’s decision to rescind an order approving the filing of a delinquency petition against a teen accused of molesting two children.

I.T. already was adjudicated as a delinquent for committing what would be Class B felony child molesting if committed by an adult when he admitted during a court-ordered polygraph examination to molesting his younger brother and a cousin. He was required as part of his treatment program to undergo the polygraph tests.

I.T.’s statements were reported to the Department of Child Services and police. He was later interviewed by a police detective and admitted to molesting the children. The state then filed a delinquency petition alleging he committed what would be child molesting if committed by an adult. The juvenile court originally approved the filing of the delinquency petition, but later rescinded it after I.T. filed a motion to dismiss.

I.T. argued that the allegations arose from his disclosures during his treatment and they are inadmissible under Indiana Code 31-37-8-4.5. Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker concluded the statute confers immunity with respect to the statements I.T. made during his polygraph test and any evidence gained as a result of those disclosures.

Juvenile law allows for appeals to be taken as provided by law, which incorporates existing law found outside the juvenile code. This includes the procedural rule requiring statutory authorization for the state to appeal in criminal matters. The state may appeal from an order granting a motion to dismiss an indictment or information.

In State of Indiana v. I.T., 20A03-1202-JV-76, the Court of Appeals decided that the juvenile order doesn’t constitute an order granting a motion to dismiss.

“Prior to the commencement of juvenile delinquency proceedings, however, the filing of a delinquency petition must be approved by the juvenile court,” Judge Ezra Friedlander wrote. “It seems evident to us that a juvenile court’s order declining to approve the filing of a delinquency petition under I.C. § 31-37-10-2 is not ‘an order granting a motion to dismiss an indictment or information’ for the purposes of I.C. § 35-38-4-2(1). Rather, a juvenile court’s decision not to approve the filing of a juvenile delinquency petition prevents the initiation of juvenile proceedings in the first place. One cannot dismiss a proceeding that was really never commenced to begin with.”

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