Community supervision and probation are often preferable to confinement, but some people can find it difficult to comply with their times at times. Additionally, the requirements for the state to prove a violation of such terms do not require the same level of proof as would be required for new Washington criminal charges. In a recent case, a juvenile challenged the constitutionality of RCW 13.40.200 because of the burden of proof it requires for violations.
The juvenile offender was 13 years old when she pleaded guilty to fourth degree assault. She was sentenced to 3 days of confinement, 12 months of community supervision, and 16 hours of community service. She violated the community supervision conditions multiple times.
After four violation hearings and 61 days of additional confinement, she contested allegations she had failed to go to school and follow rules and curfew. She moved to challenge the constitutionality of RCW 13.40.200. RCW 13.40.200 sets forth the procedure and punishment for a juvenile offender’s failure to comply with an order for community supervision. She argued section (2) of the statute violates due process because it requires the juvenile to disprove the willfulness of the violation. She also argued section 3 allows for the imposition of confinement based on a preponderance standard until the maximum adult sentence. She argued the state should prove all elements of a willful violation beyond a reasonable doubt once the offender’s confinement exceeds the standard range.
The juvenile court rejected the constitutionality arguments and found the juvenile offender had violated the disposition order, with some of those violations being willful. The court imposed another 10 days’ confinement, but suspended the sentence at the juvenile’s request. The court revoked the suspension when she was accused of additional violations the next month. The juvenile offender appealed the prior detention and the court’s order she serve the 10 days.
The juvenile’s appeal was technically moot because she had already served the detention, but she argued it should be heard because it involved matters of continuing and substantial public interest. The appeals court found that some of her arguments met the requirements to be heard despite their mootness.
A court may modify a disposition order if a juvenile offender fails to comply. The state has the burden of proving the violation “by a preponderance of the evidence.” RCW 13.40.200. If the court finds the juvenile offender “willfully violated the terms of an order . . . ,” it may order confinement. The statute places “the burden of showing that the violation was not a willful refusal to comply. . .” on the juvenile offender. If the court finds the juvenile offender repeatedly violated the order, it may impose as much as 30 days’ confinement. Penalties cannot be aggregated to exceed 30 days’ confinement for violations that occur before the hearing. The combined total number of days in detention can never exceed the maximum sentence for an adult, no matter how many times the juvenile offender is accused of violating the order.
Previous cases have held that multiple violations may be addressed in a single disposition order if the aggregate punishment in that order does not exceed 30 days. The aggregate punishment for all violations may not exceed the maximum sentence for an adult. The appeals court found the court had not imposed more than 30 days at a single hearing and that the total aggregate punishment never exceeded the 364-day maximum adult term. The appeals court therefore found the statute did not support the juvenile’s challenge of the ordered detention.
Generally, the federal due process clause requires the prosecution to prove each fact necessary to constitute the charged crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This requirement applies in juvenile adjudicatory proceedings. It also applies, to some extent, to determinations that affect the length of the sentence for a crime. If a fact, other than that of a prior conviction, increases the penalty for a crime beyond the statutory maximum, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. In Washington, the statutory maximum is the high end of the standard range.
The juvenile offender argued that confinement for her violations would be greater than the 30-day high end of local sanctions.
The appeals court noted that RCW 13.40.200 does not remove a judge’s discretion in deciding whether to impose imprisonment for a violation or otherwise limit the judge’s discretion with regard to other matters. The appeals court found no constitutional issue with regard to the statute’s imposition of maximum individual and cumulative penalties. Additionally, the statute does not impose any mandatory minimum imprisonment. The appeals court therefore held the statute was not unconstitutional just because it allowed juvenile courts to impose additional confinement for violations based on preponderance of evidence.
The Washington Supreme Court has previously held that the state is not required to prove a probation violation beyond a reasonable doubt, even for adult offenders. Revocation and modification proceedings are not criminal prosecutions for purposes of the Washington Const. Art.1, § 22 (amendment 10) and the rights it affords. Washington courts have held that RCW 13.40.200 does not allow the court to impose an additional sentence, but instead to modify the order and impose confinement in lieu of serving the sentence in a restrictive manner. The appeals court found the statute does not violate due process rights in requiring proof only by preponderance of the evidence because there is no new punishment for a new offense.
The appeals court likewise found that the requirement the juvenile offender must disprove willfulness does not violate the right to due process. Hearings pursuant to RCW 13.40.200 do not constitute prosecution of a new crime and therefore do not require a reasonable doubt burden of proof.
The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s order.
If your child has been accused of violating terms of community supervision, you need an experienced Washington juvenile defense attorney fighting to protect their rights. Schedule a consultation with Blair & Kim, PLLC, by calling (206) 622-6562.