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Justices uphold admitting juvenile's confession

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The Indiana Supreme Court has found that a juvenile court didn’t err in admitting a teen’s confession, finding the boy was given the opportunity for meaningful consultation with his mother and that he knowingly waived his rights. The justices did also emphasize that the waiver used should be altered to make it more clear.

D.M. was arrested for breaking into a neighbor’s home. D.M. was in custody in a police car in front of the home for about two hours before his mother got there. She said police told her that she couldn’t speak to her 13-year-old son until she signed a waiver form. She also claimed it was a hostile environment as firefighters on the scene were glaring at her because the neighbor worked as a firefighter.

A police detective took the mother and son to his car and told them D.M.’s rights, reading from a “juvenile waiver” form. D.M. and the mother signed the top part of the form, and then had a few minutes alone in the back of the detective’s car to talk. The detective came back and asked if they were done talking. The mother said yes, so the detective read them the waiver-of-rights section at the bottom of the waiver form and they signed it. D.M. then confessed in detail.

D.M. objected to the admission of his confession at the fact finding hearing alleging he committed what would be burglary and theft if committed by an adult. The juvenile court found the allegations in the petition to be true. The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the decision 2-1 in a not-for-publication opinion.

The justices agreed in D.M. v. State, No. 49S02-1101-JV-11, that the confession was admissible. They found based on the record that the actual procedure utilized was sufficient to remedy any prior ambiguity and that D.M.’s rights weren’t waived after he was given a chance to speak to his mother. D.M. and his mother were alone in the car and no one could hear their conversation. The detective didn’t begin the interrogation until the mother and son had signed the waiver.

They found the atmosphere wasn’t intimidating for meaningful conversation, as the mother and D.M. had argued. The justices also agreed that D.M. had knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived his rights. They affirmed the finding that D.M. was a delinquent child for committing what would be felonies if committed by an adult.

The Supreme Court also discussed clarifying the wavier form used in this case so that it would give clearer guidance. The form says “My parents and/or legal guardian and I have been allowed time by ourselves without the presence of a police officer to discuss the waiver of my rights before signing the waiver of rights.” Justice Frank Sullivan suggested it would be better to change the tense to say “… and I will be allowed time by ourselves …” They also believed the style and presentation of the form was deficient and suggested changing the title from “JUVENILE WAIVER” to “Juvenile and Parent (or Guardian) Advisement & Waiver of Rights.” The form could also more clearly indicate the parent’s role in waiving the juvenile’s rights.

Justice Robert Rucker concurred in result.

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  1. I grew up on a farm and live in the county and it's interesting that the big industrial farmers like Jeff Shoaf don't live next to their industrial operations...

  2. So that none are misinformed by my posting wihtout a non de plume here, please allow me to state that I am NOT an Indiana licensed attorney, although I am an Indiana resident approved to practice law and represent clients in Indiana's fed court of Nth Dist and before the 7th circuit. I remain licensed in KS, since 1996, no discipline. This must be clarified since the IN court records will reveal that I did sit for and pass the Indiana bar last February. Yet be not confused by the fact that I was so allowed to be tested .... I am not, to be clear in the service of my duty to be absolutely candid about this, I AM NOT a member of the Indiana bar, and might never be so licensed given my unrepented from errors of thought documented in this opinion, at fn2, which likely supports Mr Smith's initial post in this thread: http://caselaw.findlaw.com/us-7th-circuit/1592921.html

  3. When I served the State of Kansas as Deputy AG over Consumer Protection & Antitrust for four years, supervising 20 special agents and assistant attorneys general (back before the IBLE denied me the right to practice law in Indiana for not having the right stuff and pretty much crushed my legal career) we had a saying around the office: Resist the lure of the ring!!! It was a take off on Tolkiem, the idea that absolute power (I signed investigative subpoenas as a judge would in many other contexts, no need to show probable cause)could corrupt absolutely. We feared that we would overreach constitutional limits if not reminded, over and over, to be mindful to not do so. Our approach in so challenging one another was Madisonian, as the following quotes from the Father of our Constitution reveal: The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse. We are right to take alarm at the first experiment upon our liberties. I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. Liberty may be endangered by the abuse of liberty, but also by the abuse of power. All men having power ought to be mistrusted. -- James Madison, Federalist Papers and other sources: http://www.constitution.org/jm/jm_quotes.htm RESIST THE LURE OF THE RING ALL YE WITH POLITICAL OR JUDICIAL POWER!

  4. My dear Mr Smith, I respect your opinions and much enjoy your posts here. We do differ on our view of the benefits and viability of the American Experiment in Ordered Liberty. While I do agree that it could be better, and that your points in criticism are well taken, Utopia does indeed mean nowhere. I think Madison, Jefferson, Adams and company got it about as good as it gets in a fallen post-Enlightenment social order. That said, a constitution only protects the citizens if it is followed. We currently have a bevy of public officials and judicial agents who believe that their subjectivism, their personal ideology, their elitist fears and concerns and cause celebs trump the constitutions of our forefathers. This is most troubling. More to follow in the next post on that subject.

  5. Yep I am not Bryan Brown. Bryan you appear to be a bigger believer in the Constitution than I am. Were I still a big believer then I might be using my real name like you. Personally, I am no longer a fan of secularism. I favor the confessional state. In religious mattes, it seems to me that social diversity is chaos and conflict, while uniformity is order and peace.... secularism has been imposed by America on other nations now by force and that has not exactly worked out very well.... I think the American historical experiment with disestablishmentarianism is withering on the vine before our eyes..... Since I do not know if that is OK for an officially licensed lawyer to say, I keep the nom de plume.

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