J.D.W., Matter of, 94-140

Decision Date04 October 1994
Docket NumberNo. 94-140,94-140
Citation881 P.2d 1324,267 Mont. 87
PartiesIn the Matter of J.D.W., A Youth Under the Age of Eighteen, Defendant and Appellant.
CourtMontana Supreme Court

Edmund F. Sheehy, Jr., Cannon & Sheehy, Helena, for appellant.

Joseph P. Mazurek, Atty. Gen., Barbara C. Harris, Asst. Atty. Gen., Helena, George H. Corn, Ravalli County Atty., Hamilton, for respondent.

WEBER, Justice.

J.D.W. appeals the order of the Youth Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, Ravalli County, transferring this proceeding concerning criminal conduct to district court for treatment of the youth as an adult. We vacate the Order of the Youth Court dated February 9, 1994, and remand to the Youth Court for a hearing on the matter.

The sole issue on appeal is whether the Youth Court abused its discretion by ordering the proceeding transferred to District Court.

On January 6, 1994, the Ravalli County Attorney filed a petition alleging J.D.W. to be a delinquent youth based on his alleged participation in criminal activity that took place in November and December of 1993. J.D.W. was sixteen years old on October 24, 1993. The State alleged that J.D.W. had committed criminal offenses including accountability for criminal mischief (common scheme), two counts of burglary, accountability for another burglary, conspiracy to commit arson, possession of explosives and three counts of obscuring the identity of a machine.

J.D.W. admitted in an interview which took place on December 28, 1993, that he was involved in or participated in each of three separate burglaries of the Porter, Eden and Starr residences, which took place on November 12, November 26 and December 27, 1993, respectively. Also in that interview, J.D.W. told law enforcement authorities about an explosive device that had been constructed at another youth's home. This device was highly explosive and was subsequently dismantled by law enforcement. Testimony at the hearing indicated that the bomb may have been built to blow up one of the three homes burglarized by the youths.

Numerous firearms were stolen in each of the three burglaries. In one of the homes, the guns were taken from a safe which was accessed with the aid of power tools. The "machines" involved in the charges of altering machines included a .357 Coonan automatic handgun, a Smith & Wesson Model 422 automatic, and a Colt MK--IV automatic. These were not the only firearms stolen in the burglaries.

The Youth Court determined that the residential burglaries committed by J.D.W. and two other youths were premeditated. One of the homes was ransacked during the burglary and had extensive damage done to it during the course of the burglary. In addition, there was testimony at the hearing on this matter that the youths may have intended to sell the guns, after altering the serial numbers, to students at Corvallis School. The firearms were not loaded when stolen, but were loaded at the time of confiscation.

Concurrently with the petition alleging delinquency, the State moved the Youth Court to transfer the matter for prosecution in District Court rather than Youth Court, alleging that the offenses committed by J.D.W. were premeditated and of such seriousness and magnitude that the protection of the community needed to be insured for a longer time beyond that which could be afforded under the Youth Court Act.

When charged with the above offenses, J.D.W. was on Youth Court probation for a 1992 shooting of another youth with an air rifle, which resulted in the blinding of an eye. The pertinent terms of probation for the 1992 offense were that J.D.W. was not to be in possession of or to use a firearm, except when hunting with his father, and that he obey all laws. J.D.W.'s probation has been revoked in connection with this proceeding and he is currently incarcerated in the Kalispell Juvenile Detention Center pending its outcome.

Did the Youth Court abuse its discretion by ordering the proceedings in this matter transferred to District Court?

The Montana Youth Court Act authorizes transfer of cases from youth court to district court for treatment as an adult under certain circumstances set forth in § 41-5-206, MCA, as follows:

41-5-206. Transfer to criminal court. (1) After a petition has been filed alleging delinquency, the court may, upon motion of the county attorney, before hearing the petition on its merits, transfer the matter of prosecution to the district court if:

(a) ...

(ii) the youth charged was 16 years of age or more at the time of the conduct alleged to be unlawful and the unlawful act is one or more of the following:

. . . . .

(E) burglary or aggravated burglary as defined in 45-6-204;

. . . . .

(G) possession of explosives as defined in 45-8-335;

. . . . .

(J) attempt, as defined in 45-4-103, of any of the acts enumerated in subsections (1)(a)(ii)(A) through (1)(a)(ii)(I);

. . . . .

(d) the court finds upon the hearing of all relevant evidence that there is probable cause to believe that:

(i) the youth committed the delinquent act alleged;

(ii) the seriousness of the offense and the protection of the community require treatment of the youth beyond that afforded by juvenile facilities; and

(iii) the alleged offense was committed in an aggressive, violent, or premeditated manner.

(2) In transferring the matter of prosecution to the district court, the court may also consider the following factors:

(a) the sophistication and maturity of the youth, determined by consideration of the youth's home, environmental situation and emotional attitude and pattern of living;

(b) the record and previous history of the youth, including previous contacts with the youth court, law enforcement agencies, youth courts in other jurisdictions, prior periods of probation, and prior commitments to juvenile institutions. However, lack of a prior juvenile history with youth courts will not of itself be grounds for denying the transfer.

. . . . .

(4) Upon transfer to district court, the judge shall make written findings of the reasons why the jurisdiction of the youth court was waived and the case transferred to district court.

J.D.W. contends that the Youth Court incorrectly drew inferences from the evidence presented through the testimony of Deputy Bruce Hennell, who essentially opined that the burglaries, possession of explosives and conspiracy to commit arson were serious offenses involving loaded firearms which were going to be sold at the Corvallis School. He further contends that the court incorrectly decided that it did not need any evidence on the adequacy of the juvenile facilities and incorrectly assumed that the juvenile facilities were inadequate based on the average length of stay at Pine Hills School for Boys (Pine Hills). J.D.W. maintains that by concluding that the juvenile facilities in Montana are inadequate to deal with a juvenile offender such as J.D.W., the Youth Court completely ignored the rehabilitative purpose of the Youth Court Act and instead focused only on retribution.

To begin our discussion, we emphasize that one of the stated purposes of the Montana Youth Court Act is

to remove from youth committing violations of the law the element of retribution and to substitute therefor a program of supervision, care, rehabilitation, and, in appropriate cases, restitution as ordered by the Youth Court.

Section 41-5-102(2), MCA. Therefore, our review of the Youth Court's Order transferring this case to District Court, where J.D.W. will likely be placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections rather than the Department of Family Services, necessarily must ensure that the Youth Court has determined after careful consideration that the available juvenile facilities in Montana are inadequate in this case.

The overall standard of review applicable here is whether the Youth Court abused its discretion in ordering the transfer of the case to District Court for prosecution. In the Matter of J.A. (1992), 255 Mont. 214, 216, 841 P.2d 1130, 1131. As to specific findings of fact relied on by the Youth Court in making the decision to transfer the case to District Court, the standard is whether such findings are clearly erroneous according to the test set forth in Interstate Prod. Credit Ass'n v. DeSaye (1991), 250 Mont. 320, 323, 820 P.2d 1285, 1287. J.A., 841 P.2d at 1131. The first prong of the DeSaye test addresses whether the findings are supported by substantial evidence.

In accord with § 41-5-206(1)(d)(i), MCA, J.D.W. conceded there was probable cause to believe he committed the alleged offenses, but argued that the seriousness of the offense and protection of the community did not require treatment beyond that afforded by juvenile facilities. His argument pursuant to § 41-5-206(1)(d)(iii), MCA, that the offenses were not committed in a premeditated manner, is that the Youth Court's finding that the acts were "premeditated" is not the same thing as "in a premeditated manner." We agree with the...

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4 cases
  • State v. Talksabout
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • April 11, 2017
    ...41-5-102(2) to (3), MCA ; see also D.M.B. , ¶ 12 (mandatory nature of § 41-5-102, MCA ); see also In re J.D.W. , 267 Mont. 87, 91-94, 881 P.2d 1324, 1327-29 (1994) (erroneous transfer to district court based on reference to longer district court jurisdiction without consideration of adequac......
  • State v. Spina
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • May 27, 1999
    ...the youth court in transferring the case, the standard of review is whether such findings are clearly erroneous. Matter of J.D.W. (1994), 267 Mont. 87, 91, 881 P.2d 1324, 1327. A finding is clearly erroneous where it is not supported by substantial evidence, the court has misapprehended the......
  • State v. Whiteman, 04-629.
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • February 1, 2005
    ...the case, the standard of review is whether such findings are clearly erroneous." Spina, ¶ 12 (citing Matter of J.D.W. (1994), 267 Mont. 87, 91, 881 P.2d 1324, 1327). A finding is clearly erroneous if it is not supported by substantial evidence, if the district court misapprehended the effe......
  • J.K.C., Matter of
    • United States
    • Montana Supreme Court
    • March 23, 1995
    ...facilities in Montana are inadequate to cope with the hard core youth offender. We will not do this. In the Matter of J.D.W. (1994), 267 Mont. 87, ----, 881 P.2d 1324, 1328 (quoting In the Matter of Stevenson (1975), 167 Mont. 220, 228, 538 P.2d 5, 9). In Matter of Stevenson, the youth was ......

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