Thursday, October 04, 2012

Ohio Supreme Court juvenile cases

The Ohio Supreme Court has decided two juvenile court cases noteworthy of those in that practice.

Yesterday, it held that while Ohio Revised Code Sec. 2151.352 entitles juvenile offenders to representation by legal counsel "at all stages of the proceedings" in delinquency cases, that refers only to court proceedings that take place after the filing of a complaint in juvenile court or upon an offender's initial appearance in  court, but does not confer such a right during police interrogations conducted prior to the filing of a complaint or the offender's initial appearance in juvenile court.

That case, In re M.W., Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-4538, concerned "a juvenile offender," the Court's news service wrote, "who was stopped by a Cleveland police officer while driving without a valid license and initially identifying himself by another name. When the officer discovered the deception and asked why he had used a false identity, the youth stated he thought he had been stopped because of "something to do with" another juvenile the officer knew had been arrested the previous day for aggravated robbery. When asked what he knew about the robbery, he confessed that he had served as a lookout, was arrested and transported to a district police station, where he was advised of his constitutional rights, signed a written waiver of those rights, a statement admitting his role in the robbery. Cleveland Police then filed a complaint in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court charging the him with aggravated robbery and a firearm specification."

Supreme Court Justice Terrence O’Donnell stressed, in this case, that "(T)he only claimed right to counsel in this appeal is a statutory one premised on R.C. 2151.352, and our narrow holding does not address any constitutional right to counsel or the issue of waiver. Although M.W. had a Fifth Amendment right to counsel pursuant to Miranda, he did not exercise that right ... His Sixth Amendment right to counsel, which guarantees the right to counsel at all ‘critical stages of the criminal proceedings’ ... had not yet attached because a complaint alleging delinquency had not yet been filed."

This morning the Court held juvenile offenders may waive a required "amenability" hearing to determine whether he should be bound over for trial as an adult, but such a waiver is valid only if (1) the juvenile, through counsel, expressly states on the record a waiver of the amenability hearing and (2) the juvenile court engages in a colloquy (dialogue) on the record with the juvenile to determine that the waiver was made knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. (See State v. D.W., Slip Opinion No. 2012-Ohio-4544 )

This case involved a juvenile, 17 years old at the time of offense, charged with felony burglary and other crimes in the Cuyahoga County Juvenile Court. After conducting a hearing at which the court found probable cause, the judge engaged in an off-the-record sidebar discussion with the assistant prosecutor and defense counsel with regard to binding the youth over for trial as an adult at the conclusion of which the judge stated on the record that because the juvenile court had conducted an amenability hearing in a prior case involving different offenses committed by the same youth, and had bound him over for trial as an adult in that case based on a finding that he was not amenable to rehabilitation in the juvenile system, the court would grant bindover in the current case without conducting a new amenability hearing. He was subsequently bound over to the common pleas court and indicted by a Cuyahoga County Grand Jury on one count each of burglary, theft, vandalism, and criminal damaging and two counts of bribery. A jury acquitted him of bribery, but found him guilty of the other charges. He was sentenced to six years in prison and mandatory post-release control.

Chief Justice Maureen O'Connor in this decision, the Court news service relayed,"pointed out that the amenability hearing required under R.C. 2152.12 "affects whether the juvenile faces a delinquency adjudication, or adult criminal sanctions and the label 'felon.' ... Given the nature and consequences of the amenability hearing, juvenile court judges are entrusted with significant authority when conducting the hearings. ... The safeguard of a hearing is contained in the Revised Code and Rules of Juvenile Procedure, and it is grounded in due process and other constitutional protections. As the United States Supreme Court makes clear, 'there is no place in our system of law for reaching a result [the transfer of a juvenile to adult court] of such tremendous consequences, without ceremony − without hearing, without effective assistance of counsel, without a statement of reasons.'"

  "In order to assure that those conditions are met, Chief Justice O'Connor wrote: "(W)e hold that in situations in which a juvenile is subject to discretionary transfer and the juvenile wishes to waive the right to an amenability hearing, the juvenile court must engage in a two-step process to determine the validity of the waiver. First, before being transferred, the juvenile may waive the right to an amenability hearing only if the waiver is expressly stated on the record and through counsel. ... Second, the juvenile court must determine that the waiver is offered knowingly, voluntarily, and intelligently. Proper determination must include a colloquy with the juvenile and must occur on the record. The colloquy allows the juvenile court to fulfill its parens patriae duty (duty to protect a vulnerable party as a parent would) by ensuring that the juvenile fully understands and intentionally and intelligently relinquishes the right to an amenability hearing. And it allows the judge ‘to engage in a meaningful dialogue with the juvenile,’ ... to guarantee that the juvenile’s due process rights are protected."

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