JUVENILE CHARGED WITH FELONY SEX OFFENSES OVERCOMES PRESUMPTION HE IS IN NEED OF TREATMENT, SUPERVISION AND REHABILITATION

The Superior Court has held in In the Int. of: T.L.B., a Minor Appeal of: Com.
No. 1845 MDA 2014 (November 2, 2015)
, that it was not an abuse of discretion for the Juvenile Court to dismiss the proceeding, terminate jurisdiction, and discharge a juvenile charged with felony sex offenses after finding the juvenile was no longer in need of additional treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation.

FACTS

Juvenile Appellee admitted to the two felony charges of indecent assault against a victim less than thirteen years of age, committed when he was twelve years old.

In September of 2013, Appellee touched his twenty-two month old nephew’s and four-year old niece’s genitals while bathing them. He was adjudicated dependent in October of 2013 and placed in the legal and physical custody of the York County Children, Youth and Families agency (“CYF”). He was also ordered to comply with treatment with Diakon SPIN Services program (“Diakon”) as part of that proceeding.

In April of 2014, the Commonwealth filed a Petition against Appellee, charging he committed the above criminal offenses. Appellee appeared before the Juvenile Court one month later and admitted to two charges of indecent assault on a victim less than 13 years old.

The Juvenile Court deferred adjudication pending the completion of a case assessment by the Juvenile Probation department and further ordered Appellee to remain in the custody of York County CYF. On October 7, 2014, the Court conducted the adjudication hearing and, because the charges were felonies of the third degree, there was a presumption for adjudication, which shifted the burden to Appellee to show why he should not be adjudicated delinquent of the offenses.

The sole witness was Heather Gorr, Appellee’s therapist at Diakon who testified at length to the treatment Appellee had received since the incident occurred.

Appellee’s counsel argued that Gorr’s testimony overcame the presumption of adjudication for the felony charges because Appellee was receiving the level of services that he needed and that he had been successful for months in that treatment. The Commonwealth responded that just because the Appellee was already receiving some sort of treatment through the Diakon SPIN Program, it did not automatically mean he should not be adjudicated delinquent. The Commonwealth maintained that there were principles of accountability and community safety that nonetheless still needed to be addressed.

The Juvenile Court found Appellee was not in need of treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation. It dismissed the Petition, but directed Appellee to remain in placement.

ISSUES

The Commonwealth appealed from the Juvenile Court’s decision, arguing that the Court abused its discretion in finding Appellee was not in need of treatment, rehabilitation, or supervision.

HOLDING

The Superior Court held that the Juvenile Court did not abuse its discretion and that it properly credited Appellee’s therapist’s testimony.

REASONING

An adjudication of delinquency requires the Juvenile Court to determine that (1) the juvenile has committed a delinquent act and (2) the juvenile is in need of treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation.

This is so even where the delinquent act constitutes a felony because, while the commission of such an act presumptively supports a finding that the juvenile is in need of treatment and supervision . . . the Juvenile Court must still specifically make that finding after allowing for other evidence.

If the Juvenile Court finds the juvenile is not in need of treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation, it should dismiss the proceeding, terminate jurisdiction, and discharge the juvenile.

Here, the Juvenile Court found Appellee had been in treatment for several months before the adjudication and disposition hearings; he had made progress in his treatment; his treatment no longer focused on the delinquent act, but had progressed to focus on other mental health concerns; he had completed all treatment relevant to the delinquent act; and, he was not currently in need of additional treatment.

http://www.pacourts.us/assets/opinions/Superior/out/J-S45037-15o%20-%201024204135596926.pdf?cb=1

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