A juvenile court didn’t err in dismissing a delinquency petition against a teen who was found to be incompetent to stand trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled today. The judges also found dismissing the petition did not unduly endanger the public.
J.S. has a history of psychological and developmental difficulties, for which he has taken medication and received services. The state alleged in 2009 that J.S. was a delinquent child for committing what would be Class B felony criminal deviate conduct, Class C felony child molesting, Class C felony confinement, and Class D felony intimidation if committed by an adult.
J.S. asked for a determination of his competence to stand trial and two doctors found he was incompetent and didn’t understand the gravity of the charges against him. One doctor found he understood he was in a serious situation, has a fairly good understanding of court proceeding, and was competent to stand trial.
The juvenile court found him to be incompetent and dismissed the petition.
In State of Indiana v. J.S., No. 49A02-1004-JV-567, the Court of Appeals upheld the court’s decision finding J.S. incompetent to stand trial. They noted the thorough, extensive expert reports that found J.S. didn’t understand the magnitude of the charges against him, and he couldn’t assist his defense.
The state argued for the petition to remain pending while J.S. received treatment and attempted to achieve competency. Chief Judge John Baker noted that the appellate court recently found in an adult criminal context, this same scenario is a violation of due process to allow criminal charges to indefinitely hang over a defendant’s head while he or she is incompetent to stand trial and will remain incompetent.
“Here, although the experts did not reach a conclusion as to whether J.S. will ever regain competency, we note that he is a juvenile and, as such, there is only a limited amount of time left until he is an adult and no longer subject to the jurisdiction of the juvenile courts,” he wrote. “Furthermore, the record reveals that J.S. has suffered from—and been treated for—multiple debilitating social and developmental disorders for much of his young life, and the juvenile court would not have abused its discretion to have concluded, based on this record, that J.S. is unlikely to regain competency before he reaches the age of eighteen, if ever.”
The state also claimed the goal of protecting the community isn’t served by dismissing the petition against J.S. free and clear of any counseling or other requirements. But the record shows J.S. has attended counseling sessions, taken medication for his issues, and that his family has attempted to help him through different programs.
“Given this record, it is clear that J.S. is receiving the care, protection, treatment, and rehabilitation that he needs. Furthermore, the adults in his life at home, at school, and at the counseling center have set up safeguards to protect the public,” wrote the chief judge.