Washington Juvenile Court Cannot Issue No-Contact Order upon Conviction

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.

The defendant appealed, arguing the juvenile court did not have the authority to enter a no-contact order.  The state argued the court may impose crime-related prohibitions pursuant to State v. Armendariz. The appeals court pointed out, however, that Armendariz addressed a trial court’s authority under the Sentencing Reform Act. The appeals court acknowledged that the definition of offender in the Sentencing Reform Act included juveniles, but noted the Sentencing Reform Act had not generally been applied to juveniles.  Additionally, in another case, the Washington Supreme Court had looked to the Juvenile Justice Act in finding a juvenile court could impose a condition.

The appeals court found the definition of “offender” in the Sentencing Reform Act did not expand the limited authority of the juvenile court to impose conditions. RCW 13.04.450 provides that RCW chapters 13.04 and 13.40 are the exclusive authority over juvenile criminal cases except as otherwise provided. The appeals court found the definition of “offender” in the Sentencing Reform Act was not express enough to expand the authority of a juvenile court.

The appeals court then examined the juvenile court’s authority to issue the separate no-contact order. The state argued the court’s authority to issue the no contact order was based in chapter 9A.46 RCW. The appeals court pointed out that, while RCW 9A.46.040 and RCW 9A.46.050 permit a court to issue a no contact order before the defendant is released from custody or at arraignment, nothing in that chapter permits a court to issue a no contact order at conviction.

The appeals court found the juvenile court did not have authority to order the defendant to refrain from contacting the victims through either its dispositional order or through a separate no contact order. DCYF, not the court, is responsible for determining the appropriate conditions to be placed on the defendant upon his release.

The laws and procedures for juvenile defendants can be different than those applicable to adults.  If your child has been charged with a crime, you want an experienced Washington juvenile criminal defense attorney fighting for your child’s rights. Call Blair & Kim, PLLC, at (206) 622-6562 to set up a consultation.

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