Juvenile Intentionally Skips Hearing, But No Constitutional Violation

When R.R., a seventeen-year-old juvenile, did not appear for the combined factfinding hearings in his juvenile delinquency and probation violation cases, the trial court held the hearings in his absence and found that he committed the charged offenses and violated his probation.

R.R. now appeals, arguing that he had a constitutional right to be present at the hearings and that the trial court violated that right by holding them in his absence. The State argues that R.R. waived any such right by refusing to appear. In response, R.R. argues that under the juvenile waiver statute, Indiana Code Section 31-32-5-1, he could not validly waive that right because he was not emancipated.

We hold that although juveniles have a constitutional right to be present at fact-finding hearings in delinquency and probation proceedings, the trial court had the authority to find R.R. to be in a position of procedural default under the particular facts of this case, where R.R. knowingly and intentionally refused to appear. The legislature would not have intended for the juvenile waiver statute to allow nearly emancipated young adults to ignore trial court orders and thwart the operation of the juvenile justice system by intentionally refusing to appear at dispositional hearings.

Therefore, we affirm.

Read the whole opinion here.

Randall Parr is an Indianapolis juvenile lawyer.  Contact him here.