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Filed: September 1, 1987.


APPEAL FROM THE MARION SUPERIOR COURT, JUVENILE DIVISION, The Honorable James W. Payne, Judge, Cause No. J64-1263 and No. 49A02-8604-JV-141.

Pivarnik, J. Shepard, C.j., and Givan, J., concur. DeBruler, J., Dissents with opinion in which Dickson, J., concurs.

Author: Pivarnik


This cause comes to us on a Petition to Transfer from the First District Court of Appeals. In 1965, Rodney S. Jordan, then a juvenile, was adJudged to be a delinquent child, having committed an act which would be a crime if committed by an adult, to-wit: robbery, and was committed to the Indiana Boys School. He has long ago served the term of that commitment. In 1985, Jordan filed a Petition for Post-Conviction Relief with the Marion County Juvenile Division. The trial court, without referring his petition to the Indiana Public Defender and without holding any hearing, summarily denied his petition because "post-conviction relief is not a procedure used in the juvenile court process." The trial court also denied Jordan's motion to refer his petition to the Public Defender on the ground it was not timely filed. The Court of Appeals found Ind. R. P. C. 1 was available to a juvenile adJudged to be delinquent for having committed an act which would constitute a crime if committed by an adult. The State seeks transfer, arguing that 1) juvenile adjudications are not convictions and therefore the post-conviction remedies are not intended for their review and 2) due process does not require application of the post-conviction remedies to delinquency adjudications because the juvenile code affords adequate protections and remedies. We agree with the State's analysis of the law and accordingly vacate the opinion of the Court of Appeals and affirm the trial court's denial of Jordan's petition.

P.C. 1 provides a post-conviction remedy for "any person who has been convicted of, or sentenced for, a crime by a court of this State . . . ." This rule, by its very language, concerns only persons convicted of or sentenced for a crime. It cannot be interpreted to refer in any manner to a juvenile because a juvenile case is a civil and not a criminal matter. Juvenile adjudications do not constitute criminal convictions. Pallett v. State (1978), 269 Ind. 396, 401, 381 N.E.2d 452, 456.

The nature of the juvenile process is rehabilitation and aid to the juvenile to direct his behavior so that he will not later become a criminal. For this reason the statutory scheme of dealing with minors is vastly different than that directed to an adult who commits a crime. Juvenile Judges have a variety of placement choices for juveniles who have delinquency problems, ranging from a private home in the community, a licensed foster home, a local juvenile detention center, to State institutions such as the Indiana Boys School and Indiana Girls School. None of these commitments are considered sentences. A child can become a juvenile delinquent by committing acts that would not be a violation of the law if committed by an adult, such as incorrigibility, refusal to attend public school, and running away from home. A child can also become a delinquent by committing acts that would be a crime if committed by an adult. In the juvenile area, no distinction is made between these two categories. When a juvenile is found to be delinquent, a program is attempted to deter him from going further in that direction in the hope that he can straighten out his life before the stigma of criminal conviction and the resultant detriment to society is realized. In contrast, when an adult is convicted of a crime, the conviction is a stigma that follows him through life, creating many roadblocks to rehabilitation. In addition to the general stigma of being an "ex-con", or a felon, the conviction subjects him to being found a habitual criminal if he later commits additional felonies, and affects his credibility as a witness in future trials. The Legislature purposely designed the procedures of juvenile determinations so that these problems are not visited on those found to be juvenile delinquents in a juvenile court.

Indiana Code, Title 31 § 6 sets out the procedures to be used by juvenile courts in a determination of delinquency. The Legislature has provided:

Criminal charge against child in juvenile prohibited -- Exception -- Effect of juvenile court adjudication. -- (a) A child may not be charged with or convicted of a crime, except a crime excluded by IC 31-6-2-1(b), unless he has been waived to a court having criminal jurisdiction.

(b) A child may not be considered a criminal by reason of an adjudication in a juvenile court nor may such an adjudication be considered a conviction of a crime. Such an adjudication does not impose any civil disability imposed by conviction of a crime.

(c) A child's contact with the juvenile Justice system does not disqualify him from any governmental application, examination, or appointment. [IC 31-6-3-5, as added by Acts 1978, P.L. 136, § 1; 1979, P.L. 276, § 11.]

Ind. Code Ann. § 31-6-3-5 (Burns 1980). Any findings or adjudications of the juvenile court are subject to review by the Court of Appeals or this Court pursuant to our appeal process. An adjudication of delinquency cannot be used to attack the credibility of a defendant. Lineback v. State (1973), 260 Ind. 503, 512, 301 N.E.2d 636, 637, cert. denied (1974) 415 U.S. 929, 94 S.Ct. 1440, 39 L.Ed.2d 487. The Disposition of a juvenile matter is not admissible as impeachment evidence since the Disposition of a juvenile does not constitute a criminal conviction. Pallett, 269 Ind. at 401, 381 N.E.2d at 456. Finally, the Legislature has provided for the further protection of juveniles by authorizing the juvenile courts to completely expunge and destroy, or return to the individual, his entire juvenile record.

Expungement -- Effect on civil actions.

(a) This section applies only to records created as a result of allegations that a child is a delinquent child or a child in need of services.

(b) Any person may petition a juvenile court at any time to remove from its files, from the files of law enforcement agencies, and from the files of any other person who has provided services to a child under a court order those records ...

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