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State v. I.T.

Supreme Court of Indiana

March 12, 2014

STATE OF INDIANA, Appellant (Petitioner),
I.T., Appellee (Respondent)

Page 1140

Appeal from the Elkhart Circuit Court, Juvenile Division, No. 20C01-1111-JD-519. The Honorable Terry C. Shewmaker, Judge. The Honorable Deborah Domine, Juvenile Magistrate. On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals, No. 20A03-1202-JV-76.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLANT: Gregory F. Zoeller, Attorney General of Indiana; Brian Reitz, Deputy Attorney General, Indianapolis, Indiana.

ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE: Peter D. Todd, Elkhart, Indiana; Donald R. Shuler, Goshen, Indiana.

Rush, Justice. Dickson, C.J., and Rucker, David, and Massa, JJ., concur.


Page 1141

Rush, Justice.

More than half of children entering the Indiana juvenile justice system have mental health or substance abuse problems. In response, Indiana has established a pilot project to screen and treat juveniles suffering from these issues. To facilitate participation in the project, the Legislature enacted the Juvenile Mental Health Statute, barring a child's statement to a mental health evaluator from being admitted into evidence to prove delinquency. We construe that statute to confer both use immunity and derivative use immunity, in order to avoid a likely violation of the constitutional privileges against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and Article 1, Section 14 of the Indiana Constitution. We therefore affirm the trial court.

Facts and Procedural History

I.T. admitted to conduct that would be Class B felony child molesting if committed by an adult. As a condition of his probation, the trial court ordered him to undergo treatment for juveniles with sexual behavior problems, including polygraph examinations. During one of those exams, I.T. admitted to molesting two other children. As a result, the trial court moved I.T. from his home to juvenile detention, then to residential treatment in the START (Sexually Traumatized Adolescents in Residential Treatment) program. In addition, the Department of Child Services and the police investigated the admissions, and the police then interviewed one of the victims and I.T. The State filed a new delinquency petition based on I.T.'s statements to his therapist.

The juvenile court initially approved the new delinquency petition, but I.T. moved to dismiss it, arguing that the Juvenile Mental Health Statute, Ind. Code § 31-32-2-2.5(b) (2008), barred the State's evidence. The trial court granted the motion, finding that the Statute prohibited using I.T.'s statements to the evaluator or evidence derived from those statements: " Removing the consideration of the prohibited evidence, the Court can find no other evidence whatsoever to support a finding of probable cause, . . . nor can the Court find that it is in the best interest of the child or the public that the petition in this case be filed." The court gave the State ten days to refile based on independently gathered evidence, but the State appealed instead.

The Court of Appeals concluded " sua sponte that the State is without authority to appeal a juvenile court's order withdrawing its approval of the filing of a delinquency petition." State v. I.T., 986 N.E.2d 280, 281 (Ind.Ct.App. 2013), trans. granted, 993 N.E.2d 625 (Ind. 2013). We granted transfer to address two issues. Ind. Appellate Rule 58(A). First, we address whether the State could appeal the trial court's decision and conclude it could

Page 1142

because the trial court essentially suppressed evidence ending the proceeding. Second, we reconcile the limited immunity in part (b) of the Juvenile Mental Health Statute with the constitutional privilege against self-incrimination, and construe the Statute to conform to that privilege. Here, because I.T.'s statements during a court-ordered therapeutic polygraph were impermissibly used against him, we affirm the trial court.

Standard of Review

The State's right to appeal the trial court's order and the scope of I.T.'s immunity under the Juvenile Mental Health Statute are both issues of law. We therefore review them de novo . Branham v. Varble, 952 N.E.2d 744, 746 (Ind. 2011).

Discussion and Decision

I. State's Authority to Appeal.

The Court of Appeals determined that the State lacked the statutory authority to appeal because the State may appeal criminal matters only when authorized by statute. State v. Brunner, 947 N.E.2d 411, 415 (Ind. 2011).[1] The State argues it may appeal the order because the trial court labeled its order a " Memorandum and Order on Motion to Dismiss," and Indiana Code section 35-38-4-2(1) (2008) provides that the State may appeal " an order granting a motion to dismiss an indictment or information." But in juvenile proceedings, the State files a delinquency petition, not an indictment or an information. I.C. § 31-37-10-1 (2008). That difference is significant because unlike an indictment or information, filing a delinquency petition requires the trial court's approval--a discretionary finding of " probable cause to believe that: (A) the child is a delinquent child; and (B) it is in the best interests of the child or the public that the petition be filed." I.C. § 31-37-10-2(2) (2008). By contrast, " lack of probable cause is not grounds for dismissing a charging information" against an adult offender, Flowers v. State, 738 N.E.2d 1051, 1055 (Ind. 2000), let alone on ...

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