COA: Order committing juvenile to DOC until age 18 must be corrected

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An order that a juvenile delinquent be committed to the Indiana Department of Corrections until his 18th birthday has been remanded for correction after the Indiana Court of Appeals concluded the trial court abused its discretion in ordering the determinate commitment.

Juvenile F.H.’s troubles began in May 2018 when he was alleged at age 14 to be a delinquent child for having committed an act that would be Level 6 felony auto theft if committed by an adult. He racked up another delinquency petition a few months later for committing an act that would be Level 3 felony attempted armed robbery if committed by an adult. For that, the DOC was ordered wardship of F.H. but his commitment was suspended by the Hendricks Superior Court.

After being discharged early from his placement at the Wernle Residential Treatment Center, F.H. admitted to having committed dangerous possession of a firearm, a Level 5 felony if committed by adult. The juvenile court then entered a written dispositional order committing F.H. to the DOC “until his 18th birthday.”

F.H. appealed, contesting his determinate commitment in F.H. v. State of Indiana, 19A-JV-1716.

The Indiana Court of Appeals found in favor of F.H., noting that a juvenile “is not subject to a determinate term in the DOC absent a specific determination by the juvenile court that statutory criteria have been satisfied.”

“Here, no such determination was made, and the factual record would not support such a determination. The juvenile court abused its discretion by subjecting F.H. to a determinate commitment in the DOC,” Judge L. Mark Bailey wrote for the appellate court.

It therefore remanded with instructions for the juvenile court to vacate the portion of its order committing F.H. to the DOC until he turns 18.

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