COA affirms reversal of juvenile firearm adjudication

The Indiana Court of Appeals has upheld its decision to dismiss a firearm-related adjudication against a juvenile after granting the state’s petition for rehearing to address what the court called a fundamental misunderstanding of its original decision.

In its original December opinion in J.R. v. State of Indiana, 49A02-1704-JV-754, the Indiana Court of Appeals reversed J.R.’s juvenile delinquent adjudication for carrying a handgun without a license, a Class A misdemeanor if committed by an adult. Judge John Baker wrote then that the carrying charge can only apply to adults, while juveniles can be charged with dangerous possession of a firearm. J.R. had also been adjudicated for the latter crime, and the appellate court let that adjudication stand.

The state then filed a petition for rehearing, arguing the Court of Appeals erred in concluding, without briefing, that juveniles cannot be adjudicated for carrying without a license. The applicable statute, Indiana Code section 35-41-2-1(a), encompasses juveniles, the state argued, and “creates a blanket prohibition on carrying a handgun when a person does not have a license, regardless of why the person does not have a license.”

The appellate court, however, wrote Friday that its decision was based on the holding that the carrying without a license statute does not apply to juveniles in light of the statute governing the adjudication of a juvenile who commits dangerous possession of a firearm, I.C. 35-47-10-1.

“In this case, there are two statutes pertaining to the same subject, and the more detailed statute — the statute governing a juvenile’s dangerous possession of a firearm — prevailed,” Baker wrote.

“Moreover, the State contends on rehearing that every juvenile who possess a handgun is necessarily delinquent,” Baker continued. “But that contention cannot be reconciled with the statute regarding the dangerous possession of a firearm by a juvenile, which, under certain circumstances, expressly allows a juvenile to possess a firearm.”

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