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M.C. v. State

Court of Appeals of Indiana

October 9, 2019

M.C., Appellant-Respondent,
v.
State of Indiana, Appellee-Petitioner.

          Appeal from the Rush Superior Court Nos. 70D01-1812-JD-94, 70D01-1805-JD-31. The Honorable Brian D. Hill, Judge.

          Attorney for Appellant Joel C. Wieneke Brooklyn, Indiana

          Attorneys for Appellee Curtis T. Hill, Jr. Attorney General of Indiana Caroline G. Templeton Deputy Attorney General Indianapolis, Indiana

          ALTICE, JUDGE.

         Case Summary

         [¶1] M.C. was sixteen years old when the juvenile court declared him a ward of the Indiana Department of Correction (DOC). M.C. now appeals, claiming that the juvenile court abused its discretion in awarding wardship to the DOC, that such a determination violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the Equal Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Indiana Constitution, and also violated the cruel and unusual punishment provision of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution and the proportionality clause of the Indiana Constitution. We affirm.

         Facts & Procedural History

         [¶2] On March 23, 2018, officers from the Rushville Police Department responded to a report of a fight and observed fifteen-year-old M.C. and another individual leaving the area. When asked for identification, M.C. provided a false name to one of the officers. M.C. smelled of alcohol and submitted to a portable breath test, which revealed a blood alcohol level of .05%.

         [¶3] On May 11, 2018, the State filed a petition alleging that M.C. was a delinquent child. M.C. admitted the allegation, and the parties agreed to an immediate disposition. M.C. was placed under the supervision of the county probation department for six months and was ordered to submit to random drug testing. The juvenile court also required M.C. to attend school regularly and to not possess and use marijuana or other controlled substances.

         [¶4] On October 2, 2018, the State filed a petition to modify the disposition, alleging that M.C. had admitted to continued marijuana use, failed to submit a urine sample on August 20, 2018, was suspended from school for two days on September 10, 2018, and was again suspended for smoking tobacco on September 13, 2018. Before the juvenile court held an initial hearing on that petition, the State filed an amendment on December 18, 2018, adding allegations that M.C. was referred to the probation department for committing theft, that he was suspended from school again in October and early November for possessing marijuana, had been again referred to the probation department for marijuana possession, and that he was expelled from school on November 20, 2018.

         [¶5] The evidence showed that during M.C.'s suspension meeting at the school on November 14, 2018, M.C. stated that he "want[ed] to join the military. I want to kill people. I would like to kill people. I love violence and blood. You know I almost killed <omit> (sic) right?" Appendix Vol. II at 93. The theft allegation arose out of an October 13, 2018 incident where M.C. went to a Pizza King, ordered a pizza and two drinks with another juvenile, ate the food and then left without paying. M.C. admitted that it was his idea to avoid paying.

         [¶6] In November 2018, a resource officer for Rush County Schools was handed a foil ball by the dean of students that had been obtained from M.C. The officer unrolled the aluminum foil and observed suspected marijuana inside. M.C. volunteered to the officer that it was "good stuff." Id. at 125. The act of theft from Pizza King and M.C.'s possession of marijuana in November resulted in another allegation of delinquency.

         [¶7] At a hearing on February 12, 2019, M.C. admitted to the allegations in the modification and those set forth in the delinquency petition. M.C. also admitted that he had smoked marijuana the previous Friday and a few days prior to that. The juvenile court ordered M.C. detained at the Youth Opportunity Center (YOC) until his scheduled dispositional hearing on February 26, 2019.

         [¶8] The record shows that M.C. had previously been diagnosed with ADHD and had received counseling and medication for that condition. In 2015, M.C. received a competency evaluation, outpatient sex offender treatment, and a psychosexual risk assessment and evaluation. In light of a proceeding through the Department of Child Services (DCS), M.C. received inpatient treatment, individual and group therapy, and substance abuse treatment at Wernle Youth and Family Treatment Facility (Wernle) in 2016. Following discharge from Wernle, M.C. was provided with various services to assist him transition to his residence. Those services, which included home-based individual and family therapy, medication management, and a mentor, took place three times per week. The services ceased in January 2017, when DCS terminated its case.

         [¶9] At the February 26 dispositional hearing, the Rush County probation officer recommended that wardship of M.C. be awarded to the DOC. The probation officer made that recommendation based on unsuccessful community and home-based treatment and residential placement services through Marion County probation, Marion County DCS, Rush County probation, and Rush County DCS. When the probation officer spoke with M.C. regarding the disposition, M.C. indicated that if he was placed on home detention, he would continue to have access to drugs and would have others bring marijuana and other drugs to him. M.C. testified at the hearing that he possessed and smoked marijuana on November 14, because it was his birthday and it "took the edge off." Transcript Vol. II at 39.

         [¶10] In the end, the juvenile court granted wardship of M.C. to the DOC. Following the hearing, the juvenile court stated

[M.C.], I don't have any choice other than to recommend the, uh, wardship to [the] Department of Corrections. You've been through the probation system several times, received services from Probation, DCS. [I]t's clear to this Court, this isn't a matter of impulse control or some psychological disorder or strong addiction problem. This is that you don't have any regard for the rules. You don't see why they would be important and nothing's gonna change until you decide to change. And the fact that you may have, may or may not have come to some realization in the last week, um, doesn't mean a whole lot at this point. Um, you've been on probation. You've continued, you just do whatever you want. We have a Court hearing and by the time we have another hearing you do something else and just keep it up until now. So, um, the only time where you haven't violated really between court hearings is the time that you've been secured . . . in [the] YOC. So . . . it's a DOC commitment . . . [and you will be] held at the YOC in secure, um, detention until you can be transported to the Department of Corrections.

Transcript at 33.

         [¶11] On March 19, 2019, M.C. was transferred to the Pendleton Juvenile Correctional facility after completing the DOC intake phase. As a ward of the DOC, M.C. will participate in programs that will include a "growth phase" and a "transition phase." Appendix Vol. II at 157. During the growth phase, a treatment plan will be developed for M.C. Once M.C. has successfully completed that program, M.C. will move to the transition phase, which involves the development of an aftercare plan. M.C.'s release from the DOC "will depend primarily on how well [M.C.] progresses in his program." Id.

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