ILNews

Juvenile's DOC placement affirmed

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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Addressing the issue for the first time, the Indiana Court of Appeals supported a juvenile court's decision to place an illegal immigrant juvenile delinquent with the Department of Corrections instead of deporting him back to his home country.

In J.S. v. State of Indiana, No. 15A01-0706-JV-276, J.S., a 15-year-old illegal immigrant from Mexico, appealed his placement in the DOC. The boy, who had already once illegally entered the U.S. and was arrested in Kentucky for driving without a license and deported, was arrested in Lawrenceburg, Ind., for selling heroin within 1,000 feet of a school to a confidential informant working for the Dearborn County Sheriff's department. Instead of being placed with the DOC, J.S. wanted to be sent back to Mexico.

The Indiana Court of Appeals agreed with the juvenile court's decision, finding if J.S. was deported back to Mexico, it was highly likely he would come back to the U.S. During his disposition hearing, his father testified by telephone from Mexico that he and his wife did not know where J.S. was until he was arrested.

Indiana Code Section 31-37-18-6 sets the factors a juvenile court must consider when entering a dispositional decree, including selecting the least restrictive placement in most situations as to not disrupt family life and autonomy. However, if the juvenile's actions and freedom interferes with the safety of the community and the best interest of the child, the juvenile court can decide on a more restrictive placement.

J.S. had already once snuck into the U.S. and been arrested, and returned illegally just one month later. If he had sold the heroin as an adult, he could have faced 20 to 50 years in prison. His placement with the DOC is in the best interest of J.S. and the community, which will allow him to pursue his education and attempt to change his life for the better, Chief Judge John Baker wrote.
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