Juvenile court must reconsider modification petition for teen without counsel

A Kosciusko County teen who was made a ward of the Department of Correction will get another day in court after the Indiana Court of Appeals determined the teen did not waive his right to counsel at the hearing where he was made a ward.

In J.G. v. State of Indiana, 43A03-1705-JV-957, J.G. was adjudicated to be a juvenile delinquent for charges including intimidation, criminal mischief and battery and for skipping school. He was ordered to be placed on formal supervision until the age of 18, unless he was discharged sooner.

A few months after his adjudication, J.G. engaged in a physical altercation with his parents and was detained in the Juvenile Justice Center for three weeks. J.G. was later released to supervised probation, but his counsel then withdrew.

Then in April 2017, J.G.’s probation officer filed a modification report claiming the teen had not complied with the terms of his supervised release. J.G. appeared at a subsequent hearing without counsel, but he was not advised of his right to counsel, nor did he waive that right. Nevertheless, the juvenile court awarded wardship of J.G. to the Department of Correction.

On appeal, J.G. argues, and the state agrees, that he was entitled to counsel at the April modification hearing. Both parties asked the Indiana Court of Appeals to remand the case to the juvenile court for a new hearing, which the appellate panel agreed to do under Criminal Rule 25(B)(3)(a) and (C).

“Here, it is undisputed both that J.G. was not represented by counsel at the modification hearing and that he did not waive his right to counsel,” Judge Edward Najam wrote in a four-page opinion on Monday.  “Accordingly, we reverse the modification order and remand for a new hearing.”

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