Neftali D., Matter of

Decision Date02 May 1995
Citation85 N.Y.2d 631,651 N.E.2d 869,628 N.Y.S.2d 1
Parties, 651 N.E.2d 869 In the Matter of NEFTALI D., a Person Alleged to be a Juvenile Delinquent, Appellant.
CourtNew York Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

George E. Reed, Jr., White Plains, for appellant.

Marilyn J. Slaatten, County Atty. of Westchester County, White Plains (Peter A. Carbone and Carol L. Van Scoyoc, of counsel), for Westchester County--Presentment Agency, respondent.



The issue presented in this juvenile delinquency proceeding is whether a certified, but unverified, police report satisfies the jurisdictional dictates of Family Court Act § 311.2. We conclude that the petition is legally insufficient, mandating a reversal.

A juvenile delinquency petition was filed against appellant charging that on February 6, 1993 he committed acts, which if committed by an adult, would constitute the crimes of assault in the second degree (Penal Law § 120.05[3], assault in the third degree (Penal Law § 120.00[1] and resisting arrest (Penal Law § 205.30). The police report annexed to the petition relates that the juvenile verbally assaulted two police officers as they were exiting the building in which they had just responded to a report of a burglary. Although the officers proceeded past the juvenile, he continued to taunt them, prompting the officers to order him to cease such behavior. The juvenile responded by challenging the officers to a fight, flailing his arms at them. A scuffle ensued, resulting in the juvenile's arrest. Both officers were treated for injuries sustained while attempting to subdue the juvenile.

After entering his denials at the initial appearance on February 10, 1993, the juvenile was released into the custody of his mother, pending a fact-finding hearing. Prior to the hearing but 34 days after the initial filing of the petition, the juvenile moved to dismiss alleging that the petition was jurisdictionally defective because it did not contain any nonhearsay supporting depositions as required by the Family Court Act and was erroneously dated the previous year, before the alleged incident even occurred. The relevant supporting document annexed to the petition was the police report that contained the signature of the reporting officer and the signature of another individual, apparently a police sergeant, who signed in a box marked "certified by."

Family Court denied the motion, finding the supporting deposition, i.e., the police report, sufficient and in compliance with CPL 100.30(1)(b). The court indicated it looked to CPL 100.30(1)(b) for interpretive assistance in construing Family Court Act §§ 311.2 and 311.3, even though neither of these provisions specifically references the CPL. (See, Family Ct. Act § 303.1[1]. Family Court further held that the incorrect date recited on the face of the petition was an insignificant, nonprejudicial error capable of correction by amendment, which it directed to reflect the proper date, and that the juvenile waived any objection to this defect by failing to timely file his motion.

Subsequent to a fact-finding hearing at which the two police officers testified, Family Court adjudged the juvenile a delinquent and placed him with the Division for Youth for 18 months. Family Court stated that the juvenile exhibited "an escalating pattern of dangerous delinquent behavior, marked by multiple arrests for a variety of crimes which, if committed by an adult, would constitute these crimes together with a [drug] problem."

In a unanimous decision, the Appellate Division affirmed, ruling that the petition was sufficient on its face and properly supported by the nonhearsay allegations in the police report, signed by the officer-victim and certified by a police sergeant (see, Matter of Neftali D., 204 A.D.2d 319, 611 N.Y.S.2d 272). The Appellate Division noted that at the time the motion to dismiss was made, the fact-finding stage of the proceeding had commenced and "there was no longer a pressing need for an accusatory instrument that complied with Family Court Act § 311.2(3) (see, Matter of Edward B., 80 N.Y.2d 458, 464, 591 N.Y.S.2d 962, 606 N.E.2d 1353; Matter of David T., 75 N.Y.2d 927, 929, 555 N.Y.S.2d 675, 554 N.E.2d 1263)"(id., at 319, 611 N.Y.S.2d 272). We granted leave, and now reverse the order of the Appellate Division and dismiss the petition. Compliance with the dictates of Family Court Act § 311.2(3) is a formal prerequisite to a juvenile delinquency proceeding in the first instance and a condition precedent to a fact-finding hearing. Therefore, the unsworn police report attached to the instant petition was legally insufficient, depriving the court of a jurisdictional predicate to entertain the proceeding.

The sufficiency requirements set forth in Family Court Act § 311.2 are not simply technical pleading requirements but are designed to ensure substantive due process protection to an alleged juvenile delinquent, who can be arrested and deprived of liberty based on the petition. Like a criminal information, the juvenile delinquency petition is the sole instrument for the commencement, prosecution and adjudication of the juvenile delinquency proceeding and, therefore, must comport with the statutory jurisdictional requisites of the Family Court Act (see, Matter of Jahron S., 79 N.Y.2d 632, 636, 584 N.Y.S.2d 748, 595 N.E.2d 823; Matter of Detrece H., 78 N.Y.2d 107, 110, 571 N.Y.S.2d 899, 575 N.E.2d 385).

Family Court Act § 311.2 measures the sufficiency of a petition by the sum of its two parts: the verified petition (see, Family Ct. Act § 311.1; Matter of Jahron S., 79 N.Y.2d, at 636, 584 N.Y.S.2d 748, 595 N.E.2d 823, supra; CPLR 3020, 3021) and any supporting depositions filed with the petition. We now determine that the nonhearsay allegations contained in the supporting depositions of the petition must be sworn to satisfy the facial sufficiency requirements of the Family Court Act.

Family Court Act § 303.1(2) contemplates reference to judicial interpretations of relevant provisions of the criminal procedure law where "such interpretations may assist the court in interpreting similar provisions of [the Family Court Act]." In Matter of Jahron S., we construed the sufficiency of a petition that did not contain a laboratory report identifying the controlled substance the juvenile was charged with criminally possessing, with reference to the parallel CPL provision even though there was no specific statutory direction to do so (see, Matter of Jahron S., 79 N.Y.2d, at 638, 584 N.Y.S.2d 748, 595 N.E.2d 823, supra; see also, Family Ct. Act § 303.1[1]. There, we determined that CPL 100.20, which defines and identifies the form and content of supporting depositions filed with a criminal information, simplified information, misdemeanor complaint or felony complaint, was instructive for evaluating the substance of a Family Court petition because the supporting deposition serves the same function--supplementing the factual allegations of the petition--in both proceedings (see, Matter of Jahron S., 79 N.Y.2d, at 638, 584 N.Y.S.2d 748, 595 N.E.2d 823, supra).

In this case, we find CPL 100.30(1)(b) instructive with regard to verification of supporting...

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