Denial of dismissal of delinquency petition against 23-year-old affirmed

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The denial of a motion to dismiss a delinquency petition filed against a 23-year-old for an act he committed as a teenager was upheld Monday by the Indiana Court of Appeals.

In D. P. v. State of Indiana, 19A-JV-690, a delinquency petition was filed in January 2019 alleging then-23-year-old D.P. committed what would be Class B felony child molesting if committed by an adult, an act that occurred in 2012 when he was 16. A motion to waive juvenile jurisdiction was filed pursuant to Indiana Code § 31-30-3-5.

Although D.P. indicated he was 23 years old and would admit to the allegations during a subsequent hearing, the Putnam Circuit Court stated it would not accept the admission with a pending motion to transfer the matter to adult court. It thus entered an order approving the delinquency petition filing, prompting D.P. to file a motion dismiss.

D.P., relying on M.C. v. State, 127 N.E.3d 1178 (Ind. Ct. App. 2019), argued the juvenile court had no subject matter jurisdiction over him at the time the delinquency petition was filed because he was 23 – older than the juvenile court’s exclusive original jurisdiction age limit of 21 pursuant to I.C. § 31-30-1-1.

However, the motion to dismiss was denied when the juvenile court concluded it had original jurisdiction because the allegation occurred when D.P. was 16. The court also determined the prosecutor properly filed the delinquency petition and had the right to file a waiver request pursuant to I.C. §§ 31-30-3.

“The suggestion by the child that the juvenile court does not have jurisdiction is a non-starter. I.C. 31-30-2-1 deals with continuing juvenile jurisdiction until 21 (that a child has previously been adjudicated a delinquent and upon his 21st birthday, the juvenile court’s jurisdiction loses further jurisdiction, [sic] which fact pattern is not present here),” the Putnam Circuit Court wrote in its decision.

On interlocutory appeal, the appellate court affirmed the denial of D.P.’s motion to dismiss, concluding the juvenile court had jurisdiction to determine whether D.P. should be waived to adult criminal court.

“We cannot say it was the legislature’s intent for an act that would constitute child molesting as a class B felony if committed by an adult to go entirely unpunished,” Judge Elaine Brown wrote for the appellate court.

The COA further wrote in a footnote that its conclusion does not conflict with M.C., noting it had agreed with both parties in M.C. that “the juvenile court was without subject matter jurisdiction at the time it adjudicated M.C. delinquent and entered a disposition when, although the alleged delinquent act occurred when M.C. was (17), he was (22) at the time the petition was filed and could not be considered a ‘child’ under Ind. Code § 31-9-2-13.

“…Unlike in M.C., the juvenile court here did not adjudicate D.P. a delinquent and enter a disposition,” Brown wrote in the footnote. “Rather, it merely entered an order approving the filing of the delinquency petition and scheduled a hearing on the motion to waive juvenile jurisdiction. Thus, we find M.C. distinguishable.”

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