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Justices affirm ‘safe harbor’ in Juvenile Mental Health Statute

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Editor's Note: This opinion was originally issued by the Indiana Supreme Court on March 12. It was reissued March 21 due to the addition of attorney Peter D. Todd to the list of attorneys for the appellee.

A juvenile sex offender’s statements in a polygraph test during probation that he molested two more children may not form the sole basis to prove delinquency, the Indiana Supreme Court held Friday in affirming a trial court and rejecting the state’s appeal.

Justices unanimously held that the Legislature did not intend to allow juveniles’ statements in therapy to be used against them when lawmakers in 2007 passed the Juvenile Mental Health Statute, I.C. 31-32-2-2.5.

“We construe that statute to confer both use immunity and derivative use immunity, in order to avoid a likely violation of the constitutional privileges against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and Article 1, Section 14 of the Indiana Constitution,” Justice Loretta Rush wrote for the court. “We therefore affirm the trial court.”

In State of Indiana v. I.T., 20S03-1309-JV-583, Rush wrote that the trial court gave the state an opportunity to introduce evidence derived from I.T.’s statements, yet the state pursued no independent concurrent investigation. “(H)ere, the majority of the evidence in the probable-cause affidavit was precisely what even a narrow view of the Statute forbids — I.T.’s statements during court-ordered therapy. And the State concedes that the remainder of the allegations are entirely derived from those statements. In each respect, I.T.’s statements made during court-compelled therapy were improperly used against him.

“… (W)hile the Juvenile Mental Health Statute limits the State’s use of a juvenile’s statements, it does not prevent the state from ensuring that juveniles face appropriate consequences for their actions,” Rush wrote.

“We conclude that the State may appeal a juvenile court order that suppresses evidence, if doing so terminates the proceeding. We also construe the Juvenile Mental Health Statute’s limited immunity as prohibiting both use and derivative use of a juvenile’s statements to prove delinquency — a safe harbor that honors the Legislature’s intent, while avoiding any question of the Statute’s constitutionality that would otherwise be implicated.”


 

 

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