Washington Appeals Court Says Juveniles Subject to Deferred Disposition Must Give DNA

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.

The state moved for permission for the trial court to enter an order of dismissal after the defendant completed the terms of his deferred disposition.  The state also asked the appeals court to determine the DNA issue even if the issue was moot.  The defendant agreed.

The court found the issue affected most felony dispositions in juvenile courts.  Furthermore, it would tend to evade review because the 12 month limitation on juvenile disposition orders would often make the issue moot.  The appeals court therefore agreed to decide the issue, even though it was moot in the defendant’s case.

The appeals court pointed out that DNA be collected from “[e]very adult or juvenile individual convicted of a felony.” RCW 43.43.754.  The issue, then, was whether a juvenile receiving a deferred disposition order was “convicted” for purposes of the statute. The appeals court noted that “convicted” is not defined in chapter 43.43, but “conviction” is defined in chapter 9.94A.

“Conviction” is defined as “an adjudication of guilt,” including a guilty verdict, a guilty finding, and a guilty plea. RCW 9.94A.030(9).  The appeals court found that a trial court must make a finding of guilty or the juvenile must plead guilty in a deferred disposition.  In this case, the trial court found the defendant guilty.  He was therefore “convicted.”

The appeals court acknowledged that juveniles have additional protections under the law that are not afforded to adults. The appeals court noted, however, that DNA databases are not public and therefore do not raise the same privacy concerns as other records.

The defendant argued that the DNA collection fee is imposed at sentencing and that it would not make sense to require samples where there was no means to require payment.  The appeals court found, however, that it is conviction that triggers the requirement of a sample, but “sentencing triggers the fee.” Deferred disposition allows a defendant to avoid the collection fee, but not the collection itself.

A juvenile defendant now must weigh the privacy concerns and other risks of giving a DNA sample when considering whether to accept deferred disposition. If your child is facing criminal charges, you need an experienced Washington juvenile defense attorney on your side.  Schedule an appointment with Blair & Kim, PLLC, by calling (206) 622-6562.

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