Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Summary 2011 WY 108

Summary of Decision July 12, 2011

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Summaries are prepared by Law Librarians and are not official statements of the Wyoming Supreme Court

Case Name: K.C. v. State

Citation: 2011 WY 108

Docket Number: S-10-0247

URL: http://wyomcases.courts.state.wy.us/applications/oscn/DeliverDocument.asp?CiteID=463978

Appeal from the District Court of Natrona County, Honorable David B. Park, Judge

Representing Appellant (Respondent): Diane Lozano, State Public Defender; Tina N. Olson, Appellant Counsel; David E. Westling, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel

Representing Appellee (Petitioner): Bruce A. Salzburg, Wyoming Attorney General; Terry L. Armitage, Deputy Attorney General; D. Michael Pauling, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Stewart M. Young, Faculty Director, Jessica Y. Frint, Student Director, and Kevin Walton, Student Intern, of the Prosecution Assistance Program.

Date of Decision: July 12, 2011

Facts: Appellant, a juvenile, was adjudged delinquent. As part of her disposition, she was allowed to remain in a home environment and placed on supervised probation for three to six months. Appellant violated various terms of her probation. In response, her probation was revoked and her disposition changed to placement at the Wyoming Girls’ School for an indefinite period. Appellant appeals from the disposition.

Issues: Whether the trial court abused its discretion by acting in an arbitrary and capricious manner when it ignored Wyoming Statutes and case law concerning juvenile placements. Whether the trial court’s conduct of the probation revocation hearing denied Appellant due process of law.

Holdings: A juvenile court enjoys broad discretion in formulating a disposition for a juvenile adjudged delinquent, but that discretion is not unbounded. A juvenile court cannot enter a disposition that runs counter to law. Wyoming’s Juvenile Justice Act, Wyo. Stat. 14-6-201 to -252 (2011), delineates certain sanctions that may be imposed on a juvenile adjudged delinquent. The sanctions are divided into sanctions recommended for certain levels of delinquent behavior and a catch-all provision providing certain sanctions that are available for all sanction levels. The sanctions delineated are merely guidelines and a juvenile court is free to impose any sanction it deems appropriate to meet the specific needs of the juvenile before the court. The only qualification is that if a juvenile court deviates from statutorily delineated sanctions it must provide a written explanation on the record for the deviation. Section 14-6-247(a)(viii) provides that a juvenile court may order a juvenile to attend school as necessary for treatment. The Wyoming Girls’ School is a residential program offering rehabilitation treatment as well as education. Placement at the Wyoming Girls’ School falls within the statutorily allowable sanctions applicable to Appellant. The juvenile court, thus, was not required to provide a written justification for the placement.

Appellant argues the juvenile court violated her right against self-incrimination as found in the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. She refers specifically to her statement at the immediately preceding a multi-disciplinary team meeting (MDT) that she would not follow the rules of the a local residential treatment home. She argues there is no evidence she was informed of her right against self-incrimination before she made that statement in the MDT meeting and thus the juvenile court should not be allowed to use the statement in determining the appropriate disposition for her. The fallacy in Appellant’s argument is that the right against self-incrimination does not apply at the dispositional phase of delinquency proceedings. The privilege unquestionably applies to the adjudicatory phase of a delinquency proceeding. The dispositional phase occurs after an adjudication of delinquency. The sole issue before the juvenile court during the dispositional phase is the proper corrective action to be imposed. Any statement considered in the dispositional phase serves to assist the juvenile court in formulating the most appropriate individualized disposition. In other words, any statement considered is not used to incriminate a juvenile but rather to help the juvenile receive the most appropriate, individualized disposition.

Appellant next argues the juvenile court violated her due process rights by not properly advising her of the maximum penalty she might face if she admitted violating the terms of her probation. She cites to W.R.Cr.P. 11(b)(1) for the proposition that the juvenile court should have advised her she might face placement at the Wyoming Girls’ School if she admitted to getting bad grades and having unexcused absences from school. The Wyoming Rules of Criminal Procedure do apply to delinquency proceedings unless inconsistent with the Juvenile Justice Act. W.R.Cr.P. 1(a). The plain language of W.R.Cr.P. 11 reveals the rule does fall within the exception. Rule 11 is inconsistent with the Juvenile Justice Act in several ways. Most importantly, one of the purposes of a delinquency proceeding is “[t]o remove, where appropriate, the taint of criminality from children committing certain unlawful acts.” Wyo. Stat. 14-6-201(c)(ii)(B) (2011). The question for adjudication is whether the allegations contained in the petition alleging delinquency are true. A finding that the allegations are true “is not deemed a conviction of guilt, but is a determination that judicial intervention is necessary for the best interest and welfare of the child and the public.” Wyo. Stat. 14-6-225(b) (2011). Thus, a rule relating to criminal guilty or nolo contendere pleas is inapplicable in the juvenile delinquency setting.

It also is unworkable in a juvenile delinquency proceeding to comply with the advisement requirements of Rule 11, specifically as to minimum or maximum sentences. A juvenile delinquency proceeding entails no set minimum or maximum penalties. Rather, a juvenile delinquency proceeding envisions an individualized disposition taking into account the therapeutic needs of the juvenile based on the juvenile’s circumstances. A juvenile court faces minimal restrictions in formulating an individualized disposition. With the wide range of options available to the juvenile court in making a disposition, no advisement as contemplated by Rule 11 is practical. Consequently, the advisement provisions of Rule 11 are inconsistent with, and therefore inapplicable to, juvenile delinquency proceedings.

The district court’s placement of Appellant at the Wyoming Girls’ School is affirmed.

J. Golden delivered the opinion for the court.

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