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J.W. v. State

Supreme Court of Indiana

January 9, 2019

J.W., Appellant (Defendant),
State of Indiana, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Argued: April 20, 2018

          Appeal from the Henry County Circuit Court 1 Cause No. 33C01-1707-JD-38 The Honorable Bob A. Witham, Judge

          On Petition to Transfer from the Indiana Court of Appeals No. 33A04-1708-JV-1934

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT Cara Schaefer Wieneke Wieneke Law Office, LLC Brooklyn, Indiana

          ATTORNEYS FOR APPELLEE Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana J.T. Whitehead Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana


          Slaughter, Justice

         We held in Tumulty v. State, 666 N.E.2d 394 (Ind. 1996), that an adult criminal defendant cannot challenge the validity of his guilty plea on direct appeal. He must, instead, pursue post-conviction relief and raise in that proceeding any claims of error concerning his plea.

         At issue here is whether to extend Tumulty to the juvenile-law counterpart to a criminal plea-namely, an agreed delinquency adjudication. We hold that juveniles cannot immediately challenge on direct appeal any errors concerning their agreed adjudication. But because juveniles are not eligible for post-conviction relief, before pursuing their constitutional right to appeal, they must first assert any claims of error concerning their agreed judgment in a request for post-judgment relief filed with the juvenile court. Juveniles who seek that relief in post-judgment proceedings have a statutory right to counsel under Indiana Code article 31-32.

         Factual and Procedural History

         J.W., a juvenile, has a significant history with the juvenile-justice system dating to his early teens. In 2013, J.W. was adjudicated a delinquent at age 13 for committing criminal mischief, a class B felony if committed by an adult. While on probation, he assaulted a student at school and possessed weapons on several occasions. He was placed in foster care but then was relocated to secure detention because he stole from his foster family, ingested rubbing alcohol to become intoxicated, and possessed a handgun. Undeterred, he continued with various criminal behaviors until his probation was terminated in 2015 and he was placed with the Department of Correction. In 2017, he was released from the Department and reportedly moved back into his parents' home. But just a week later, he fled and was reported as a runaway.

         In July 2017, the New Castle Police Department responded to a 911 call that a young man was threatening suicide. When police arrived, J.W. was running through a mobile-home park and heeded the officer's command to surrender. After he was detained, J.W. identified himself to police as his older brother M.W. and stated falsely that his birthdate was October 4, 1998, which would have made him 18 years old. The responding officer also spoke with J.W.'s girlfriend, who had called 911. She explained that J.W. became upset after she asked him to leave. He started punching himself in the face and chin, grabbed a kitchen knife, put it to his throat, and threatened suicide. Because of J.W.'s self-inflicted injuries and his suicide threat, the officer called for paramedics to administer treatment and to transport J.W. to the local hospital emergency room.

         After J.W. was admitted to the hospital under the name of M.W., hospital staff received a phone call from a person identifying herself as J.W.'s sister. The nurses on duty told the caller they had no patient by that name, but later learned that J.W. was a juvenile and had provided the wrong name. Once medical staff learned that J.W. was not his 18-year old brother, they contacted J.W.'s parents to obtain consent to treat him. The parents consented and spoke with the officer when they got to the hospital. Upon learning of J.W.'s real age and identity, the officer contacted a Henry County probation officer who had previously encountered J.W. in the juvenile system. The police officer also arrested J.W. as a juvenile runaway and for false informing.

         Both the police and probation officers testified at J.W.'s detention hearing in July 2017. The probation officer recommended that J.W. remain in secure detention, based on his failure to benefit from less restrictive services. The court adopted the recommendation and continued J.W.'s placement in secure detention. The following day, the court issued an order finding probable cause that J.W. was delinquent and that detention was "essential to protect the child or the community".

         In August 2017, the court held an initial hearing that J.W., his counsel, and his mother attended. Counsel advised that the State and J.W. had agreed to settle the case and represented that J.W. would admit to Count 1, class B misdemeanor false informing if committed by an adult, Ind. Code §§ 35-44.l-2-3(d)(1), 31-37-1-2, in exchange for the State's dismissing Count 2, leaving home without the permission of a parent, guardian, or custodian, id. ยงยง 31-37-1-2, ...

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