COA: No error in detaining teen during competency restoration after attacks on mom

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A Marion County court wasn’t in the wrong when it ordered a teenage girl to be detained while she received competency restoration services following numerous acts of domestic battery and criminal recklessness against her mom, the Indiana Court of Appeals has ruled.

Fourteen-year-old I.J., who academically functions at a 1st or 2nd grade level and has a wide range of reported mental health diagnoses, was allegedly involved in four physical altercations with her adoptive mom between July and September 2020. One of those instances reportedly included I.J. wielding a knife.

A juvenile delinquency petition was filed against I.J. after each incident, collectively asserting two counts of Level 6 felony and Class B misdemeanor criminal recklessness, if committed by an adult, and four counts of Class A misdemeanors domestic battery, if committed by an adult.

I.J. was released back and forth between her mom’s home and an emergency care shelter, eventually leading to a fifth altercation that allegedly violated I.J.’s release agreement. The Marion Superior Court then ordered her to juvenile detention pending a determination of her competency for adjudication.

A child psychologist and a child psychiatrist separately assessed I.J. and both concluded that she was not competent for adjudication. The teen was then ordered to receive competency restoration services while detained at Youth Opportunity Center, a residential treatment facility, where she remained for 63 days.

But before the COA could review I.J.’s petition to accept jurisdiction over her interlocutory appeal, the residential center was granted its request for I.J. to be removed from its facility for verbal and physical aggression, as well as noncompliance and for trying to leave. The trial court then dismissed the delinquency petitions against I.J., without objection, noting that the Department of Child Services had filed a petition alleging I.J. to be a child in need of services.

The Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed finding Indiana Code § 31- 32-12-1(3), as interpreted in In re K.G., 808 N.E.2d 631, 637 (Ind. 2004) by the Indiana Supreme Court, authorized the juvenile court to order competency restoration services after finding I.J. not competent for adjudication.

“Though not directly in dispute, I.J.’s appeal inherently questions the juvenile court’s authority to order competency restoration services after finding a child not competent for adjudication,” Judge Leanna Weissmann wrote for the appellate court. “Considering the protective and rehabilitative purposes of Indiana’s juvenile code, we do not believe our Supreme Court intended its broad interpretation of Indiana Code § 31-32-12-1(3) to mean a juvenile court may find a child not competent for adjudication but do nothing to aid a child whose incompetence might be only temporary.

“Accordingly, we specifically recognize that the statute, as interpreted in K.G., allows for a competency examination as well as treatment of an incompetent child to restore the child’s competency,” it concluded.

It further found the juvenile court was authorized to detain I.J. under Indiana Code § 31-37-6-6(a)(4) while her competency was being restored. Neither did I.J. establish a due process violation. It lastly concluded that the 14-day limitation provided by Indiana Code § 31-32-12-2(a) is not applicable to I.J.’s case.

The case is I.J. v. State of Indiana, 20A-JV-02293.

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