COVID-19 Notice: We Remain Here For You. Learn More.

Articles Posted in Juvenile Cases

Juvenile cases are sometimes transferred to adult criminal court.  The requirements regarding a court holding a hearing on the issue of declining jurisdiction are set forth in RCW 13.40.110.  An appeals court recently considered whether Washington juvenile court jurisdiction could be waived for any type of case, or if the court’s authority was limited to the types of cases identified in the statute as eligible for a decline hearing.

According to the appeals court’s opinion, a 17-year-old juvenile was charged with two counts of a gross misdemeanor, fourth degree assault.  He moved to have the case moved to adult criminal court, partly to have a jury trial and an opportunity to vacate his convictions.  He argued a juvenile court may decline jurisdiction over a criminal case if the juvenile intelligently makes an express waiver pursuant to RCW 13.40.140(10). RCW 13.40.140(10) provides that any waiver of a juvenile’s rights must be “express” and “intelligently made.” The state argued that a juvenile court is only permitted to decline jurisdiction in cases in which a decline hearing is required.

The court granted the request and the state requested discretionary review.

Continue reading

Washington juvenile courts may impose “local sanctions” for certain low level offenses committed by a juvenile offender.  Local sanctions include up to 30 days confinement, up to 12 months community supervision, up to 150 hours community restitution, or up to a $500 fine. RCW 13.40.020(18).  The juvenile court may impose conditions on a juvenile defendant sentenced to local sanctions pursuant to its authority to impose community supervision. If a juvenile defendant is sentenced to more than 30 days, however, he or she must be committed to DCYF.  RCW 13.40.160. The juvenile offender may be subject to conditions as part of DCYF’s parole program after the sentence has been completed.  Certain conditions are required under the parole program, while others are permitted.  The statute specifically permits the secretary to prohibit the juvenile offender from having contact with specific people or classes of people. RCW 13.40.210(3)(b)(ix).

Recently, a juvenile defendant appealed a court’s order prohibiting him from contacting the victims of his offense. According to the appeals court’s opinion, the juvenile defendant fired a flare gun into a house resulting in a small fire.  Three people were inside.

The defendant ultimately pleaded guilty to first degree arson in juvenile court. The court ordered him to 103 to 129 weeks in a Department of Children, Youth, and Families (“DCYF”) rehabilitation facility. The state requested a no-contact order for the people who had been inside the house. The court’s disposition order contained a provision prohibiting the defendant from contacting those three people for an unstated period of time.  The court also imposed a 10-year no contact order.

Continue reading

Parents in Washington want to do what they can to protect their children from harassment. A parent may petition on their child’s behalf for an anti-harassment protection order.  A parent’s ability to seek a protection order against another child, however, is more limited.  In such cases, the other child must have been “adjudicated of”  or investigated for an offense against the protected child.  RCW 10.14.040(7).  A high school student recently challenged a protection order issued against her on the grounds it was not permitted under RCW 10.14.040(7).

Two high school students were involved in some sort of conflict. The appeals court’s opinion identified the two minor students by the initials A.R.S. and K.G.T.  According to the court’s opinion, A.R.S. repeatedly threatened to assault K.G.T.

They met in the bathroom to resolve their differences.  A.R.S. shoved K.G.T. A teacher intervened and stopped the incident.  The assistant principal subsequently addressed it as a disciplinary issue and suspended K.G.T. for one day and A.R.S. for three.

Continue reading

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution protects individuals from warrantless searches by the government, but does not generally apply to the actions of a private person.  It can apply, however, if the private person is acting as a government agent.  Courts consider whether the government knew of and agreed to the person’s conduct and whether the person’s intent was to help law enforcement. In a recent Washington case, a teenage defendant appealed her possession conviction after the juvenile court admitted evidence her mother found in a search conducted in the presence of a deputy.

According to the appeals court’s unpublished opinion, the mother reported her teen daughter had snuck out and came home intoxicated. The girl was asleep in bed when the deputy responded, and he did not think she looked intoxicated. The mother told him the girl had packed her backpack to run away.  The deputy told the mother she could take the backpack and cellphone from her daughter.  The mother emptied the contents of the backpack, including a small container that appeared to contain marijuana. The mother told the deputy she wanted her daughter charged.  The state charged the girl with possession of 40 grams or less of marijuana while under 21 years of age.

The defendant moved to suppress the marijuana, arguing it was found in an unlawful warrantless search.

Continue reading

Juvenile defendants may have the option of “deferred disposition.” In a deferred disposition, the defendant does not contest the state’s facts.  If the court finds the statement of uncontested facts is sufficient, it finds the defendant guilty.  Disposition, however, is deferred pending satisfaction of the conditions ordered by the court.  If the defendant meets the conditions, the conviction is vacated.

An ongoing question has been whether juvenile defendants subject to deferred disposition are required to submit a DNA sample.

A juvenile defendant recently challenged an order that required him to submit a DNA sample.  The juvenile was charged with two counts of theft of a motor vehicle, which is a felony.  The trial court granted his motion for deferred disposition. He objected to submitting a DNA sample, but the court overruled the objection.  The court entered guilty findings on both charges and deferred disposition.  The court also stayed the requirement he submit a DNA sample pending his appeal.

Continue reading

After the U.S. Supreme Court determined that mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for juveniles was unconstitutional, the state of Washington enacted a statute requiring the re-sentencing of Washington criminal defendants who had been sentenced to life without the possibility of parole for crimes committed while they were juveniles. RCW 10.95.035.

A defendant who was re-sentenced after the change in the law recently challenged his new sentence.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, the defendant killed two people during a robbery in 1997 at the age of 17.  He was sentenced to the then-mandatory life sentence without the possibility of parole for each of two counts of aggravated first degree murder while armed with a deadly weapon, to be served consecutively, plus a deadly weapon enhancement of 24 months on each count.

Following a hearing in 2017, the defendant was re-sentenced to two concurrent terms of 42 years to life.  The defendant appealed and the appeals court affirmed.  The Washington Supreme Court remanded the case for reconsideration based on a recent decision.

Continue reading

A charge of harassment can punish speech, raising First Amendment issues.  When the state charges a person with harassment under Washington criminal law, it has to prove the defendant’s statements were not protected speech.  One way to do this is to show that the words constituted a “true threat.”  A true threat is not hyperbole or a joke, but a serious threat.  Courts do not consider what the speaker intended.  Instead, they look at whether a reasonable person would foresee the statement being interpreted as intent to physically harm someone.  The court considers this question in the context of the actual intended audience.  Courts may consider whether there was a specific plan to harm, the tone of the message, and whether it was repeated to multiple audiences.

In a recent case, a 17-year-old defendant successfully challenged her adjudication of guilt on a harassment charge.  During an argument with her mother, the defendant texted her friends.  In one text, she stated “Bet imma get her killed [. . .]” She texted another friend, “Imma [expletive] kill this [expletive].”

The mother subsequently looked in the phone and found the texts.  She also found violent comments the defendant made about another person.  The mother changed the locks on the house and slept with a knife.  She showed screen shots of the messages to the police.

Continue reading

The Fifth Amendment to the US Constitution protects individuals from being forced to incriminate themselves.  Before interrogating a person in custody, the police have to tell them of their right to remain silent and that what they say could be used against them.  The police must also advise them of the right to speak with an attorney before being question and to have the attorney present.  The police must inform them of their right to counsel, which may be appointed if they cannot afford one.  Finally, the police have to advise them of their right to stop the questioning.  Under Washington law, a juvenile has the same rights against self-incrimination as adults.  The rights of a juvenile under 12 years old may only be waived by a parent, guardian, or custodian, but a juvenile at least 12 years old may waive their own rights.  RCW 13.40.140.

In a recent case, a juvenile defendant appealed her conviction arguing her Miranda waiver should not be considered valid.  According to the appeals court’s opinion, when the defendant was 11 or 12 years old, she took videos of her friend, who was the same age, showering and getting dressed.  After the defendant turned 13, the friend learned the videos were posted on the defendant’s Snapchat account.  The friend asked her to delete them.  The defendant denied posting them and said she did not have a phone anymore and that her Snapchat account was hacked.

The friend’s stepfather contacted the defendant’s mother, but the mother also stated the defendant did not have a device to post them.  A third girl testified she saw the videos when the defendant posted them to a group chat including her and the friend that evening.

Continue reading

The Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution provides the right to be free from self-incrimination. The police must advise suspects of their rights when they are subject to a custodial interrogation by a state agent.  If they fail to give the Miranda warning, then the statements made during the custodial interrogation are presumed to be involuntary and are to be excluded from evidence.  A juvenile defendant in a Washington criminal case recently challenged his conviction on the grounds the court erred in admitting the statement he made to the chief of police in the principal’s office.

The fourteen-year-old defendant had been talking about video games with some classmates in one of their middle school classes.  The other students said the defendant said something like “he was going to shoot the school.” One student said he did not really take the statement seriously because the defendant said that sort of thing “all the time” and he thought the defendant was joking.

The other student also said the defendant had previously made similar statements he had not taken seriously.  This time, however, he was concerned and told the teacher.  He said the defendant did not make the statement to anyone individually, but muttered it to himself.  He said he was afraid the defendant would hurt someone.

Continue reading

Generally, a police officer needs a warrant to seize a person suspected of a crime.  There are some exceptions to the warrant requirement, including the Terry stop.  Terry allows an officer to briefly stop and question someone if the officer had reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.  The officer’s suspicion must be based on specific and articulable facts and be individualized to the person.  Challenging the validity of a seizure, including a Terry stop, can be an important aspect of a Washington criminal defense case.

A minor defendant recently appealed his conviction, arguing the officer did not have grounds to conduct a Terry stop.  According to the court’s opinion, the officer stopped a vehicle after seeing it roll through a stop sign.  There were three passengers in addition to the driver. The defendant was the front seat passenger.

The officer smelled marijuana when he approached the vehicle.  The driver told him all of the occupants were seventeen.  The driver denied having marijuana, there being marijuana in the car, or any of the passengers having marijuana.  He said his mother used marijuana and that could have been what the officer smelled.  The officer frisked him and put him the back of the patrol car.

Continue reading

Contact Information