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CHAPTER ONE

ISSUES RELATING TO JUVENILE DELINQUENCY
WAYWARD AND TRUANCY OFFENSES

WHAT DOES THE TERM JUVENILE DELINQUENT MEAN?

I. TERMS

—> A delinquent is any youth who has committed any offense, which if committed by an adult, would be a felony, or who more than once violated a law other than ordinances regulating the operation of motor vehicles.(5)

If your are presently in the Rhode Island Training school (facility where juvenile offenders are confined), or other state placement, turning eighteen (18) does not automatically allow you to be released from state custody. You may continue to be subject to the jurisdiction (power) of the Family Court, under certain circumstances, and held in state custody until you reach the age of twenty-one (21)(6)

IF I AM A DELIQUENT, AM I ALSO A FELON?

—> No. An adjudication (which means a court decision after evidence is heard) of delinquency is not a criminal conviction. A finding of delinquency (or waywardness which will be defined later) in a juvenile proceeding, is not a finding that the juvenile has committed a crime.(7)

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF DELINQUENT ACTS, OR OTHER TYPES OF MISCONDUCT THAT CAN GET ME INTO TROUBLE WITH THE STATE?

—> According to data compiled by Rhode Island Kids Count 2003 Factbook , there were less than 5,049 juveniles referred to Family Court for 9,348 wayward and delinquent offenses. Youth involved with use of illegal drugs are usually referred to the Juvenile Drug Court, a division of the Family Court.

About one-third (1/3) of the youth committed property offenses, which would include theft, shoplifting, or destruction of another person's property. There are, of course, more serious offenses that would include for example, murder, rape, sexual assault and robbery.

Status offenses, disorderly conduct, and physical assaults constituted another one-third (1/3) of the offenses committed by youth. Status offenses are age-related acts that would not be punishable if the offender is an adult, such as truancy from school, violating curfew or "disobedient conduct." These are offenses unique to children.

Offenses involving traffic violations, weapons or other harmful behaviors are other examples of misconduct, which will bring a youth to the attention of Family Court. A small number of offenses include false reporting of a crime, crank or obscene phone calls and escapes from state custody.

EXAMPLE: WHAT IS SHOPLIFTING?

—> Shoplifting is stealing. It is the taking and carrying away of another's property specifically goods from a retail establishment.

Goods are defined as any merchandise displayed, stored or offered for sale by a store. To be guilty of shoplifting you have to have intended to deprive the merchant of all or part of the full retail value. This behavior includes altering, transferring, or removing a label, price tag, or any other evidence of value with the intent to deprive the merchant of full or part of full retail value of the merchandise.( 8)

II. CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS OF YOUTH SUSPECTED OF JUVENILE MISCONDUCT WHEN CONFRONTED BY THE POLICE

WHAT ARE THE RULES THAT THE POLICE MUST FOLLOW WHEN DEALING WITH ME, IF I AM SUSPECTED OF BREAKING A LAW?

—> Your constitutional rights arise when you are suspected by the police of breaking the law and the police begin to seek, search for, and collect (seize) evidence to prove your illegal acts. Children have rights under the United States Constitution that arise during arrest and the search and seizure of evidence by the police.

You have the right to have the charges against you provided to you or served (put in your hand) and in writing within a reasonable time. You have the right to be told why you are being taken into custody. You have the right to have a lawyer represent you, and if you cannot afford to hire a lawyer, the court must provide one for you if you are likely to be incarcerated or placed in the Rhode Island Training School.(9)

You have the right to expect your lawyer to be competent in the areas of law and procedure relevant to your case and you can tell the lawyer what you want. You have the right to an interpreter if you need one.(10)

DO I HAVE A RIGHT TO CONFIDENTIALITY IN THE JUVENILE COURT PROCEEDINGS, AND WITH WHOM MY INFORMATION ABOUT ME BE SHARED?

—> Your juvenile record is not a public record. Newspaper reporters cannot read or use court records to get your name, print your photo, or read your court file if you are a minor. The idea of confidentiality of juvenile records exists so that you can enter adulthood with a clean slate after you have resolved the problems leading to your misconduct committed as a youth.

All police records relating to your arrest, detention, and disposition must be kept in separate files apart from those of adults. Your records are not open to public inspection unless there is a written order from Family Court authorizing their release. Your parents or guardian, and your attorney have the right to copy your records. Victims of your misconduct however, may be entitled to your full records. The press has the right to publish public information about you if they have obtained the relevant information from their own investigation using non-judicial sources. If you are waived, or certified by the Family Court to adult court (Rhode Island Superior Court), your records may then become public.(11)

[At this point, you may wish to look at CHAPTERS THREE, FIVE, AND SEVEN for discussion of maintaining confidentiality of your past records and requests to disclose to prospective employers and those who register you for military service, if you are male and required to do so when you reach age eighteen (18).]

AFTER I AM TAKEN INTO CUSTODY, ARE THERE ANY RESTRICTIONS ON WHERE I MAY BE HOUSED PENDING THE COURT'S DECISION (ADJUDICATION) REGARDING MY CASE?

—> You may be released after your arrest and before a hearing on the charges against you. It depends on the nature of the charges against you, particularly how violent your behavior is said (alleged) to have been.

The Rhode Island courts follow the national wisdom that the principal concerns of the Family Court when determining the proper disposition of a youth pending a court decision (adjudication) of delinquency are the welfare of the youth, as well as the welfare of the community.(12)

In Rhode Island the arresting officer will first consider releasing a youth accused of a delinquent act to a parent or guardian. The Family Court, depending on the circumstances, may order that a youth immediately be confined in a place of detention.(13)

Under Rhode Island law, the place of detention must be "suitable" and not directly connected with any adult jail or lockup. When a delinquent or wayward youth is in the custody of the state or detained while waiting for a hearing, the youth cannot be confined in any prison, jail or training school with adjudicated youth, or be transported with, or compelled or permitted to associate or mingle with any criminal or vicious person.(14) In Rhode Island, male non-adjudicated youth are confined to a separate detention center.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I AM ORDERED BY THE RHODE ISLAND FAMILY COURT TO RESIDE IN THE RHODE ISLAND TRAINING SCHOOL AND WHAT ARE MY LEGAL RIGHTS DURING MY RESIDENCY THERE?

—> The Rhode Island Training School for Youth is a locked facility for juvenile delinquents.

In October 2002, The Rhode Island Division of Juvenile Corrections published a Resident's Handbook, in compliance with a Federal Court order concerned with children's rights. The Handbook outlines the legal rights of residents and must be made available to you. If you are having difficulty obtaining a copy, you may call the Office of Child Advocate at 222-6650 for assistance.

Basic rights include your housing conditions, ability to communicate with your attorney and others concerned with your welfare, education and health services needs, to name a few, and are described more fully in the Handbook. You have the right to attend religious services and to be free from sexual harassment. If you ever feel that you are not being treated properly, you should first and always contact your attorney who can advise you on how best to quickly resolve any difficulties.

DO IHAVE A CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT TO BAIL PENDING DELINQUENCY PROCEEDINGS SINCE THAT IS A RIGHT GUARANTEED TO ADULTS?

—> No. Rhode Island follows the federal rule which states that the right to bail guaranteed by the United States Constitution, available to adults who are imprisoned, is not available to juveniles being held pending delinquency proceedings. The court reasoned that juveniles are not "detained" (meaning held in legal and physical custody) as adults are. The court's view is that because a youth is in state custody with the state acting as surrogate (a substitute) parent, it is not penal, or a punishing type of custody, as it is for adults and therefore, the right to bail guaranteed to adults is inapplicable to the Family Court decision to detain (confine) a juvenile. (15)

WHAT IS A JUDICIAL WAIVER FROM FAMILY COURT TO ADULT OR SUPERIOR COURT IN RHODE ISLAND?

—>The Family Court continues to have jurisdiction (power) over you if you are under eighteen (18) years of age and are charged with delinquency. This jurisdiction or power ends, however, if you are charged with an offense which would be punishable by life imprisonment if you had committed that act as an adult, or if you are over the age of sixteen (16) and are charged with an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult.(16) Waiver at any age is dependent upon the findings of the Family Court regarding rehabilitation and the seriousness of the crime. If you are waived out of (that is, removed from) the control of Family Court, your case will be assigned and tried in adult court.

DO I HAVE THE RIGHT TO A JURY TRIAL IN A JUVENILE DELINQUENCY PROCEEDING?

—> No. The Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury is not available in juvenile proceedings. The United States Supreme Court decided this issue in 1971 and there has been no change in the law. If you are waived to stand trial as an adult, you have the right to a jury trial as does any adult in the same situation.(17)

WHAT IS CERTIFICATION?

—> Certification is a process (up to age 21) by which the Family Court may sentence a child of any age to the maximum penalty for an offense, to be served in the Rhode Island Training School, while the offender remains a juvenile, followed by transfer to an adult facility, if deemed appropriate by a Family Court Judge. There must be a hearing before certification can occur. The court must determine if the public can be protected on by removing you from society.(18)

IF I AM FOUND BY A COURT DECISION (ADJUDICATION) TO BE DELINQUENT, CAN I ALSO BE SUED IN A CIVIL ACTION AND BE MADE TO PAY MONEY DAMAGES?

—> Yes. Crime victims may recover against a juvenile offender in a civil action for money damages. This recovery may be in addition to a court order that the juvenile make restitution (which also means to pay money damages) to compensate the victim for the harm inflicted. Rhode Island allows crime victims to obtain your juvenile records that are otherwise confidential, to prepare their case against you. Your parents may also be financially liable in a civil action filed by those you harm.(19)

IF I AM A JUVENILE SEXUAL OFFENDER DO I HAVE TO REGISTER?

—> Yes. In Rhode Island, if you have been declared by a court (adjudicated) to be a juvenile sexual offender, you must register (sign in) in person with the local law enforcement agency in the city or town where you reside (live). This requirement remains for fifteen (15) years after your release from confinement or community placement. You must verify your address every three (3) months during that fifteen (15) year period. The court has the discretion to order you to register for as long as the court decides it is necessary. Discretion means that the judge has flexibility in making a decision that can fit the individual case as the judge sees it. The judge must decide how to protect the community and at the same time rehabilitate you.(20)

IF I AM LATER CONVICTED OF A CRIME WHEN I AM AN ADULT, CAN THE JUDGE USE A PREVIOUS COURT DETERMINATION (ADJUDICATION) OF MY DELINQUENT PAST, TO INCREASE THE SENTENCE OF A LATER ADULT CRIME?

—> There remains disagreement in this area. Currently, a trial judge in adult court cannot increase a sentence by use of your previous juvenile record unless you have been convicted of delinquency for acts that would be a felony if you were an adult.(21) Under Rhode Island law, Training School records can be shared with the Adult Correctional Institute, if you are imprisoned.

The Rhode Island General Assembly has made clear that a court decision (adjudication) of delinquency is not a criminal conviction. It shall not operate to disqualify you from any future civil service (state government employment) application examination or appointment. The disposition (which means final decision) of a youth and any evidence given in the Family Court shall not be admissible as evidence against that youth in any case or proceeding or any other court.(22)

III.WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO BE ADJUDICATED A WAYWARD YOUTH?

A youth is wayward who leaves or abandons his or her home without sufficient cause; or who associates with immoral persons; or is habitually disobedient of the reasonable and lawful commands of parents or other lawful custodians; or who is habitually absent from school or habitually violates school rules; or who violates a law other than an ordinance regulating the operation of motor vehicles.(23)

CAN THE FAMILY COURT DECIDE THAT I AM A WAYWARD YOUTH BASED ONLY ON A PETITION THAT I AM DISOBEDIENT?

—> No. A petition stating or alleging that you are wayward just because you exhibit "disobedient behavior" is not enough for the Family Court to assume jurisdiction (power and control) over you. There must also be proof offered in the petition that you have had an evaluation (called a needs assessment) at a facility approved by the Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF), and that a treatment plan was crafted for you to help you in improving your behavior, but was unsuccessful. You must be given a chance to become more aware of the effect your behaviors have on others and be given opportunity to change and improve.(24)

WHAT IS A STATUS OFFENSE?

—> Status offenses are age-related acts; that is, acts that would not be punished if the offender is an adult. Examples of status offenses include truancy from school, violating a curfew, or disobedient conduct.(25)

IF THERE IS NOT ENOUGH EVIDENCE TO PROVE THAT I AM EITHER DELINQUENT OR WAYWARD, WHAT IS MY STATUS?

—> If after a hearing on any petition in the case of a wayward or delinquent youth, the Family Court finds tat there is not sufficient evidence to support it, the judge shall declare that you are not a delinquent or wayward youth, and you will be discharged from the jurisdiction (power and control) of the Family Court.(26) In short, your case will be dismissed.

WHAT IS TRUANCY?

—> Truancy is what is commonly referred to as skipping school. Rhode Island, like all states, has compulsory (that is, required) school attendance laws. Children are legally required to attend school, unless their parent or guardian has provided school staff with a valid excuse for their absence. Children who miss school and do not have a valid excuse are truant. Truancy officers are required to investigate cases where violations of the compulsory attendance laws have occurred. Parents may be criminally prosecuted, fined and imprisoned for violating this law.(27)

Cities and towns are encouraged to create programs for early intervention or mediation to address problems of students who are habitually late or absent from school.(28)

WHAT IS THE TRUANCY COURT?

—> Truancy courts are located inside certain public schools in Rhode Island and have the authority to hold truant students and their families accountable for violations of compulsory school attendance laws. A magistrate hears the cases at a local junior high or high school on a weekly basis. To be eligible, you must be in grades 6 - 12 and have a history of repeated truancies, or unexcused absences from school.(29)

WHAT IS THE DRUG COURT?

—> Drug Court is available for nonviolent juvenile offenders who suffer from alcohol and/or drug abuse problems. It is a voluntary program and is based on referrals to the Family Court after the current charges, prior nonviolent wayward/delinquent history, and other background information are reviewed. This system applies to juvenile offenders between the ages of thirteen (13) and seventeen (17) who are charged with alcohol and/or drug offenses in Providence and Bristol Counties. A prior court determination (adjudication) involving violence or pending delinquent charges involving violence will make you ineligible for Drug Court.(30)

MORE ON WHAT TO EXPECT FROM COURT PROCEDURES IF YOU ARE FOUND TO BE DELINQUENT, WAYWARD, OR ARE OTHERWISE BEFORE THE FAMILY COURT

IF I AM BROUGHT BEFORE THE FAMILY COURT FOR VIOLATING THE LAW, WHAT SHOULD I EXPECT?

—> Once you are in state custody, a petition is filed that begins your case in Family Court.

WHAT IS A PETITION?

—> A petition is a document filed in the Family Court by someone who believes that you have committed a delinquent act or a wayward act or are neglected/abused. It tells the reasons why you should be taken into or remain in state custody. The petition states facts about you such as your name, date of birth, address and the name of your parents or guardians. After the petition is filed, a hearing date is set.

WHAT IS A HEARING?

—> A hearing is a private, confidential and informal meeting in court with a judge to decide what, if any, services you require, or whether you are delinquent, wayward or neglected/abused. There are different types of hearings. For example, there must be a detention hearing no more than 72 hours after you have been taken to the Training School on suspicion of committing a delinquent act. The judge will then decide whether to let you go home or will schedule a hearing to listen to more evidence involving you. It is important at this time that you communicate with your attorney.

WHAT IS A DISPOSITION HEARING?

—> A disposition hearing occurs after the judge finds that you have committed the offense charged, or are otherwise in need of court supervision. At a disposition hearing, the judge decides whether to place you under the supervision of the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF), allow you to remain at home, place you in out-of-home care, sentence you to the Training School or another type of community placement. The court can place you in the Training School until your twenty-first (21st) birthday.

WHAT IS A REVIEW HEARING?

—> In some cases, the court may set a hearing date to review your progress and performance while you are on probation, in a community placement, or at the Training School.