A 17-year-old convicted in adult court of obstruction of justice and carrying a handgun without a license has lost his appeal of the denial of his motion to transfer his case to juvenile court, with the Indiana Court of Appeals ruling the trial court was not required to enter written findings to support its denial.
In Cameron Tibbs v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1701-CR-154, 17-year-old Cameron Tibbs was sitting in a vehicle at an Indianapolis gas station when David Bowman began threatening Shanice Dozier, who had been in the vehicle with Tibbs but exited when she noticed some cash on the ground. Bowman claimed the cash was his and threatened to kill Dozier if she did not give it to him. Bowman also put his hand in his pocket as if to reach for a gun.
After briefly exchanging words with Bowman, Tibbs pulled out a gun that he had in the car and fatally shot Bowman in the chest. Tibbs and his passengers then immediately drove away, and the gun was never found.
After turning himself in to police, a jury acquitted Tibbs of murder but found him guilty of Level 6 felony obstruction of justice and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license. After the verdict but before the Marion Superior Court entered judgment of conviction, Tibbs, who had been tried as an adult, requested his case be transferred to juvenile court for adjudication and disposition. However, because Tibbs had been arrested a second time for a gun-related crime while out on bond before his trial, the trial court denied his motion without issuing a written order.
On appeal, Tibbs argued the court was required under Indiana Code section 31-30-1-4 to enter findings explaining the denial of his motion to transfer. But in a Monday opinion, Indiana Court of Appeals Judge Michael Barnes wrote no such requirement exists in the applicable statute, which holds that a court “may … transfer jurisdiction to a juvenile court” after consideration of certain enumerated factors.
“If the legislature had wanted to require such findings, it knows how to do so,” Barnes wrote. “In fact, there is an express statutory requirement for a trial court to enter findings in support of a discretionary decision to waive a juvenile into adult court. The legislature chose not to enact such a requirement for a ‘reverse waiver,’ and we will not read one into the statute.”
“… In fact, a trial court is not even required to enter findings to support a judgment of conviction following a bench trial, which is the most consequential decision a trial court can make,” Barnes continued. “We decline to impose a requirement that trial courts enter findings in support of rulings on a motion for ‘reverse waiver’ under Indiana Code Section 31-30-1-4(C).”