Washington Juvenile Courts Must Enter Findings as to Each Element of the Crime

Washington Juvenile Courts are subject to their own rules, which may be different from the rules and procedures that apply to a criminal trial of an adult.  A juvenile being tried in a juvenile court does not have a right to a jury. RCW 13.04.021. The case is instead heard by a judge. The court must find the juvenile guilty or not guilty and state its findings of fact.  The court must include the evidence it relied upon in its findings.  The court must also enter written findings of fact and conclusions of law in a case that is appealed.  The findings must include the ultimate facts that prove each element of the crime.  JuCR 7.11.  Generally, the appropriate remedy on appeal for a juvenile court’s failure to enter sufficient findings is remand to the juvenile court to enter the appropriate findings.

A juvenile recently challenged her conviction based on insufficient findings by the juvenile court.  The juvenile was arrested after a woman reported seeing a girl rummaging around in her car and then riding away on a bicycle.  A sergeant from the sheriff’s department found the juvenile sitting on a bicycle and looking into a truck a couple of blocks from the woman’s home.  According to the appeals court opinion, the girl provided the officer with a name that was not her own. The sergeant arrested the girl.  When the girl was searched, police found two knives, two speakers, and some change when she searched her.

The juvenile was charged with second degree vehicle prowling and providing a false statement to a public servant.  According to the juvenile court’s findings, the woman identified the juvenile as the girl she saw in her car, based on the girl’s clothing, complexion, and build.  The juvenile court found the juvenile guilty of both charges.

The juvenile appealed, making the argument that the juvenile court’s findings were inadequate because they neither contained a finding on the element of intent nor did they state the facts the court relied on to find intent.  In this case, vehicle prowling in the second degree requires the defendant to have an “intent to commit a crime against a person or property therein” when he or she enters or unlawfully remains in the vehicle.  RCW 9A.52.100.  The juvenile court did not, however, enter any findings or discussion related to the juvenile’s intent.  Because the juvenile court had not issued sufficient findings of fact to address the element of intent, the appeals court remanded the case to the juvenile court to enter findings of facts as to each element of the vehicle prowling charge.

If your child is facing criminal charges before a Washington juvenile court, you naturally want to do everything you can to protect their rights.  An experienced Washington juvenile defense attorney who understands juvenile court procedures can fight for your child.  Call Blair and Kim, PLLC at (206) 622-6562 to set up an appointment and discuss the specific facts of your case.

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