In an unsuccessful challenge to a trial court’s authority to send him to the Indiana Department of Correction, a Hendricks County juvenile learned the juvenile justice system gives courts wider latitude because the goal is to rehabilitate the offending youth.
A.C. was given probation and placed in a residential treatment facility for one count of battery by bodily waste, a Class B misdemeanor, which resulted from his spitting in his father’s face during an altercation. Two separate times the state filed motions to modify supervision after A.C. was found to have violated the dispositional order and conditions of his probation.
At the hearing when the second motion to modify was filed, the CEO of the treatment facility said A.C. was a risk to others because he had a “very short fuse” and became verbally and physically aggressive. The CEO said A.C. could not remain at the facility and recommended he be placed in the Department of Correction.
The Hendricks Superior Court awarded wardship of A.C. to the DOC.
A.C. appealed, arguing the juvenile court had no authority to order him committed to the Department of Correction for a probation violation. He asserted that because a portion of his original “sentence” was not suspended, the court cannot revoke probation and send him to prison.
In A.C. v. State of Indiana, 19A-JV-2510, the Indiana Court of Appeals disagreed and affirmed the trial court.
The unanimous panel pointed to the difference between the juvenile and criminal systems. Namely, the juvenile justice system is focused on rehabilitation so the young person does not grow up to become a criminal. Consequently, the juvenile court can choose from several dispositions including probation, outpatient treatment, community service, confinement in a juvenile detention facility and wardship to the DOC.
Citing Bratcher v. State, 999 N.E.2d 864, 873 (Ind. Ct. App. 2013), trans. denied, Senior Judge Ezra Friedlander noted the distinction with the juvenile system is that in the criminal setting, probation is a given as a sanction in lieu of imprisonment.
“Pursuant to the juvenile statutory scheme, probation and wardship to the DOC are just two of several statutory disposition alternatives available to the juvenile court,” he wrote. “(Indiana Code) Section 31-37-19-5(b)(1), under which the court may order supervision of the juvenile by the probation department, does not require a suspended sentence as a prerequisite to the imposition of probation; rather, a term of probation stands alone as a distinct disposition and is treated as any other disposition alternative in the juvenile setting.”