Argued: May 31, 2018
from the Lawrence Circuit Court Nos. 47C01-1409-JD-294,
47C01-1609-JD-342 The Honorable John M. Plummer, III, Judge
Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals No.
ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law
Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana
ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General
Indianapolis, Indiana Andrew Kobe Laura R. Anderson Deputy
Attorneys General Indianapolis, Indiana
Goff concurs. Chief Justice Rush concurs in Parts I.B. and
II. and dissents from Part I.A., with separate opinion.
Justice Massa concurs in Part I.A. and dissents from Parts
I.B. and II., with separate opinion. Justice David dissents
with separate opinion, which Chief Justice Rush joins in part
and which Justice Massa joins in part.
fact-finding hearing where R.R., a juvenile, was not present,
the trial court found R.R. violated his probation and
adjudicated him a delinquent for auto theft and false
informing. R.R. argues that (1) juveniles have a due-process
right to be present at such hearings, and (2) the trial court
violated this right by holding the hearing in his absence. We
assume without deciding that R.R. is correct on the first
issue and agree with him on the second. We thus reverse the
trial court's delinquency determination and remand for
and Procedural History
September 2014, the State alleged R.R., then fourteen years
old, committed criminal mischief, a Class B misdemeanor for
an adult. R.R. admitted the allegations, and the court placed
him on supervised probation for six months. Beginning in May
2015, the State filed multiple petitions to modify R.R.'s
probation because he had violated the terms of his probation.
These modifications included housing him in a residential
treatment center for at-risk youth. The court ordered R.R.
released from this facility in June 2016 and placed him back
on probation for six months. Only six weeks later, the State
again petitioned the court to modify R.R.'s probation,
noting more violations. In September 2016, the State alleged
R.R. committed auto theft, which would be a Level 6 felony
had he been an adult, and false informing, which would be a
Class B misdemeanor. In January 2017, the State filed a
"Request for Taking Child Into Custody" based on
that September 2016 petition.
February 7, 2017, the court held a fact-finding hearing
concerning the September 2016 petition and the January 2017
request. R.R. was not present, but his mother and counsel did
appear. When asked if she knew where her son was, R.R.'s
mother answered, "No. He hasn't even called me since
he left." The court responded, "Well, let the
record reflect that this child's whereabouts are unknown.
The child's mother is here. She doesn't know where he
is. Sounds like he's been gone for seven (7) or eight (8)
State offered to proceed in R.R.'s absence, but
R.R.'s counsel balked. When asked if she objected to
proceeding, R.R.'s counsel said, "Yeah, I do object
to that and I request a continuance so that [R.R.] can be
present at his hearing." The court denied the motion and
proceeded with the fact-finding hearing despite R.R.'s
absence. After the hearing, the court found R.R. had violated
the terms of his probation and committed auto theft and false
two months later, on March 30, police detained R.R. under a
pick-up order, and he appeared at a dispositional hearing the
same day. At the hearing, the court ordered that R.R. be made
a ward of the Indiana Department of Correction. R.R.
appealed, arguing he had a constitutional right to appear at
his fact-finding hearing, and the court violated that right
by holding the hearing in his absence.
divided Court of Appeals affirmed in a published opinion,
concluding R.R. had a right to be present at the hearing, but
had waived this right because he "knowingly and
intentionally refused to appear." R.R. v.
State, 93 N.E.3d 768, 770 (Ind.Ct.App. 2018). Adopting
R.R.'s interpretation would, the court observed, allow
juveniles to "hijack trial court dockets and avoid
responsibility for their delinquent behavior by knowingly and
voluntarily (and repeatedly) refusing to appear at
factfinding hearings." 93 N.E.3d at 774-75. The dissent
believed R.R. had not waived his right to appear because his
conduct did not conform to the waiver requirements outlined
in our juvenile-waiver statute, Indiana Code chapter 31-32-5.
Id. at 775-76 (Vaidik, C.J., dissenting). We granted
transfer, thus vacating the Court of Appeals' opinion,
and now reverse.
issue here are two questions of first impression: first,
whether juveniles have a due-process right to appear at a
fact-finding hearing; and, second, if they have such a right,
how they can waive it. Both the existence of constitutional
rights and the requirements for waiving them are legal
questions we review de novo. When determining whether a
juvenile has a constitutional right that the Supreme Court of
the United States has not expressly recognized, we will
decide the question based on "our own judicial
examination of the various cases, statutes, and
constitutional principles pertinent thereto." Bible
v. State, 253 Ind. 373, 378, 254 N.E.2d 319, 320 (1970).
Also relevant here are the meaning and scope of Indiana's
juvenile waiver-of-rights statute. "A statute's
meaning and scope are legal questions we review de
novo." Garner v. Kempf, 93 N.E.3d 1091, 1094
(Ind. 2018). Our goal is to effectuate the statute's