Justia West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals Opinion SummariesArticles Posted in Juvenile Law
In re C.B.
The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the circuit court granting the State's motion to transfer this juvenile case to the criminal jurisdiction of the circuit court pursuant to W. Va. Code 49-4-710, holding that there was no error.Petitioner, the juvenile in this case, was seventeen years and seven months old when he was charged with child abuse resulting in serious bodily injury and child neglect resulting in serious bodily injury. The state police filed a juvenile petition alleging that Petitioner was a delinquent child. The State filed a motion to transfer Petitioner's juvenile proceedings to the circuit court's criminal jurisdiction. The circuit court granted the State's motion. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the circuit court did not err in transferring the case to the criminal jurisdiction of the circuit court. View "In re C.B." on Justia Law
Christopher J. v. Ames
The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part the order of the circuit court denying Petitioner's petition for a writ of habeas corpus, holding that the circuit court erred in finding that W.Va. Code 61-11-23(b) of the Juvenile Sentencing Reform Act did not apply retroactively to Petitioner's sentence.Petitioner, who was sixteen years old at the time he committed the offenses, was convicted of sexual assault in the first degree and sexual abuse by a parent, guardian, custodian, or person in a position of trust. The circuit court sentenced Petitioner to an aggregate sentence of thirty-five to seventy-five years of incarceration and fifty years of supervised release. The court further required Petitioner to register as a sexual offender for his lifetime. After the legislature enacted the Act, Petitioner brought this habeas corpus proceeding. The circuit court denied relief. The Supreme Court held (1) the circuit court erred in concluding that the legislature did not intend for section 61-11-23(b) to be applied retroactively; (2) Petitioner failed to establish that the State provided false and perjured testimony; and (3) Petitioner's sentence was not disproportionate. View "Christopher J. v. Ames" on Justia Law
State v. J.C.
In this appeal from the judgment of the circuit court placing a juvenile accused of delinquency but found not competent to proceed in a mental health facility for a period of thirty-five years under a competency statute designed to address adult defendants and not juveniles, the Supreme Court dismissed the juvenile's appeal, holding that because new evidence suggested that the juvenile had since been restored to competency, the juvenile's appellate arguments were moot.The Legislature has not created any statutory procedure to protect a juvenile's due process right to competency. In the instant case, the circuit court concluded that W. Va. Code 27-6A-3, a statute addressing the pretrial competency of an adult criminal defendant, applied to J.C.'s juvenile proceeding. The circuit court ordered that J.C. be committed to a mental health facility for a maximum period of thirty-five years, as though J.C. was an adult. J.C. appealed. The Supreme Court dismissed the appeal, holding that J.C.'s argument that the circuit court should not have applied section 3 to his case was rendered moot by a report opining that he had attained competency. View "State v. J.C." on Justia Law
State v. J.E.
The two petitioners in this case were juveniles who were adjudicated juvenile delinquents for sexual assault. At issue before the circuit court was whether the juveniles should be required to register as lifetime sexual offenders upon reaching the age twenty-one. The circuit court certified two questions to the Supreme Court regarding the sex offender statutes in relation to juvenile offenders. The Supreme Court answered (1) a juvenile adjudicated of certain acts of delinquency is not required to register under the sex offender registration statute; and (2) the nature of the crimes underlying the two juvenile delinquency petitions - first and second degree sexual assault - allows for the public disclosure of the names of the juveniles. View "State v. J.E." on Justia Law
State ex rel. Smith v. Hon. David J. Sims
Petitioner, the prosecuting attorney of Ohio County, West Virginia, filed a juvenile petition against J.Y., a twelve-year-old boy charged with possession of a deadly weapon on the premises of an educational facility. Specifically, J.Y. possessed the deadly weapon with the express intent to intimidate another student. The circuit court dismissed the petition, finding that J.Y. was not competent to stand trial and that the charged offense did not involve “an act of violence against a person.” Petitioner sought a writ of prohibition to prevent the circuit court judge from dismissing the juvenile petition, asserting that J.Y. was charged with an offense that involved “an act of violence against a person” within the meaning of W. Va. Code 27-6A-3 given the potential for harm to other students that existed as a result of J.Y.’s actions. The Supreme Court granted the requested writ, holding that J.Y.’s actions indicated that he posed a risk of physical harm and severe emotional and psychological harm to children, and therefore, J.Y. committed an offense involving an act of violence against a person within the meaning of section 27-6A-3. View "State ex rel. Smith v. Hon. David J. Sims" on Justia Law
State v. J.S.
J.S., a juvenile, was adjudicated as a delinquent for burglary and battery under two separate juvenile petitions and placed in a level four juvenile detention facility until he reached the age of twenty-one. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) even if J.S. was wrongfully denied a detention hearing on the burglary petition and a preliminary hearing on the battery petition, the errors were harmless; (2) any error in not filing a timely adjudicatory order on the burglary petition was harmless; (3) the circuit court did not err in considering certain hearsay evidence at the disposition hearing; (4) the circuit court did not abuse its discretion in placing J.S. in a level four juvenile detention facility; and (5) the circuit court’s failure to advise J.S. of his right to appeal was not reversible error. View "State v. J.S." on Justia Law
State v. Fitzsimmons
Petitioner pleaded guilty to entering without breaking. The circuit court ordered Petitioner to be placed at the Anthony Center for Youthful Offenders. The warden later determined Petitioner was unfit to continue his placement at that facility, and Petitioner was transferred to jail. After a hearing to determine if the warden abused his discretion in removing Petitioner from the Anthony Center, the circuit court reinstated Petitioner's original one to ten year prison sentence and ordered that Petitioner not be given any credit towards the sentence for the time served at the Anthony Center. The Supreme Court affirmed in part and reversed in part, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in upholding the warden's decision to expel Petitioner from the Anthony Center; but (2) erroneously denied Petitioner's request for credit for time served. Remanded. View "State v. Fitzsimmons" on Justia Law
In re Brandi B.
Petitioner, who was fourteen years old at the time, stipulated that she was absent from school on nine days within a five-week period. Petitioner denied she was an habitual truant because six of the nine days were due to an out-of-school suspension. The circuit court concluded that the total nine absences constituted habitual truancy, adjudicated Petitioner to be a status offender, placed her on probation, and ordered Petitioner be placed in the legal custody of the Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR). The Supreme Court affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded, holding that the circuit court (1) did not err in adjudicating Petitioner a status offender and in placing her on supervised probation; but (2) erred in failing to make adequate findings regarding transfer of legal custody to the DHHR and in exceeding its jurisdiction by attempting to impose probation beyond the age of eighteen. View "In re Brandi B." on Justia Law
In Re: N. A., I. A., C. P. and M. P.
In 2009, a petition for abuse and neglect was filed in circuit court regarding N.A, I.A, C.P. and M.P. The petition was filed against the children's biological mother and their maternal grandparents, all of whom were alleged to have care and custody of the children as they all resided at the grandparents' home. The petition was based on allegations of domestic abuse between the mother and grandfather in the presence of the children. At an adjudicatory hearing, the circuit court found that the children's mother had neglected her children. The circuit court ordered that the Department of Health and Human Resources retain legal custody of the children while physical custody remained with the grandparents so long as the mother had no contact with them. DHHR found that the grandparents consistently violated the "no-contact" order of the court. The children were eventually placed in foster care. "Joshua G." was listed on the petition, but was not accused of any abuse. Joshua was the biological father of M.P. He petitioned the court for sole custody of M.P. The court denied his request. Among the issues all parents brought on appeal were whether the circuit court erred by (1) denying Joshua custody of M.P.; and, (2) denying the grandparents' request for physical custody of all the children. The Supreme Court declined to rule on the issues presented on appeal. Rather, the Court remanded the case for additional hearings at the circuit court. The Court considered that though the record reflects the extent to which the children were abused, it acknowledged that the children still have strong bonds with their grandparents. "It is imperative . . . that the circuit court focus on whether such continued contact [with the grandparents] is in the best interest of the children." The Court advised DHHR to develop a permanency plan for the children so that the siblings remain together. "The lower court faces a Herculean task of requiring wisdom, compassion and the strength to protect the children to the greatest degree possible from physical and emotional harm, and to create stability and safety."