State ex rel. Smith v. Scott

Decision Date25 October 1977
Docket NumberNo. 13938,13938
Citation238 S.E.2d 223,160 W.Va. 730
PartiesSTATE ex rel. James Darrell SMITH v. George M. SCOTT, Circuit Judge of Roane County.
CourtWest Virginia Supreme Court

Syllabus by the Court

1. Before a court can waive its juvenile jurisdiction it must under due process procedures: (1) afford adequate notice to the juvenile of the hearing; (2) appoint counsel in the case of indigency; (3) conduct a meaningful hearing; and (4) issue a statement of the reasons for relinquishing juvenile jurisdiction.

2. The Legislature, in enacting the juvenile proceedings statutes, W.Va.Code, 49-5-1, et seq., manifested an intention that juveniles should, in the ordinary case, be subject to juvenile court jurisdiction. Transfer, therefore, should be the exception and not the rule.

3. A motion to transfer a juvenile to the criminal court from the juvenile court is a critical stage in the proceeding against a juvenile. It is invoked by the State where there are special circumstances which may justify relinquishment of juvenile jurisdiction. The hearing on the motion to transfer is not intended to establish guilt.

4. Where the record of a transfer hearing is barren of any relevant data which could have provided a proper foundation for the juvenile court to make a meaningful decision as to the propriety of the transfer, a writ of prohibition will lie to preclude the criminal court from exercising jurisdiction over the juvenile since it is exceeding its legitimate jurisdiction.

Charles E. McCarty, Spencer, for relator.

Chauncey H. Browning, Jr., Atty. Gen., William D. Highland, Asst. Atty. Gen., Charleston, for respondent.

MILLER, Justice:

In this prohibition proceeding the relator seeks to prevent the Circuit Court of Roane County from exercising criminal jurisdiction over his person. Relator contends that the order transferring his case from the juvenile court to the criminal court was void as the juvenile judge did not conduct a meaningful transfer hearing as mandated by Kent v. United States, 383 U.S. 541, 86 S.Ct. 1045, 16 L.Ed.2d 84 (1966), and as required by this Court in State v. McArdle, W.Va., 194 S.E.2d 174 (1973). We agree.

The essential facts are not contested. On March 17, 1977, relator was arrested on a warrant issued by a Roane County magistrate which charged him with grand larceny of a motor vehicle valued at $250. He was brought before the magistrate who, upon learning that relator was under the age of eighteen (18), transferred the case to the Circuit Court of Roane County. W.Va.Code, 49-5-3 (1975).

On March 25, 1977, the Circuit Court, exercising its juvenile jurisdiction, appointed counsel for the relator. On this same day, the court proceeded to hear the matters arising on the written motion filed by the prosecuting attorney requesting transfer of the case from the juvenile side of the court to the criminal side of the court.

The motion set out two grounds to support the requested transfer: (1) that the offense charged was a serious crime; (2) that the infant defendant was 17 years of age, being born on January 30, 1960, and as a consequence, the juvenile court's jurisdiction was too limited to properly handle the case.

The court, at the beginning of the transfer hearing, asked the relator's attorney if the facts in the motion were in dispute. The attorney responded that there was no dispute as to the birth date. The court then stated that, the facts being admitted, the motion stated a prima facie case for granting transfer.

Relator's attorney was asked if he had any evidence in opposition to the motion. Counsel advised he had no evidence to offer, and the court granted the transfer motion. The reasons stated by the court for granting the transfer were that:

"There is not sufficient time remaining in the jurisdiction of this court within which to determine the guilt or innocence of the defendant of the charge contained in the warrant and to effectuate any meaningful program of rehabilitation or punishment."

Both Kent and McArdle, supra, require that before a court can waive its juvenile jurisdiction it must under due process: (1) afford adequate notice to the juvenile of the hearing; (2) appoint counsel in case of indigency; (3) conduct a meaningful hearing; and (4) issue a statement of the reasons for relinquishing juvenile jurisdiction.

Neither Kent nor McArdle attempted to formulate standards which would be deemed meaningful in guiding the judge in his decision to retain or relinquish his juvenile jurisdiction. In Breed v. Jones, 421 U.S. 519, 537-538, 95 S.Ct. 1779, 44 L.Ed.2d 346, 360 (1975), the Court recognized that the development of such standards was a task left to the individual states.

Kent did set out in an appendix a policy memorandum, promulgated by the Judge of the Juvenile Court of the District of Columbia, which contained criteria to be considered by the court in determining whether to waive juvenile jurisdiction in favor of adult criminal jurisdiction. 1 It is these criteria which have largely set the standards for other courts and which have been the model for statutes governing transfer hearings in other jurisdictions. See, e. g., People In Interest of L.V.A., S.D., 248 N.W.2d 864 (1976); Summers v. State, 248 Ind. 551, 230 N.E.2d 320 (1967); Cal.Welf. & Inst.Code § 707 (West); Tex.Fam.Code Ann. tit. 3 § 54.01(f) (Vernon).

In 1977, the West Virginia Legislature made extensive revisions to the child welfare provisions found in W.Va.Code, 49-5-1, et seq. Acts of the Legislature, ch. 65 (1977); Acts of the Legislature, First Extraordinary Session, ch. 6 (1977). A transfer section, which sets out several factors to be considered by the juvenile judge, was added. We are of the view that while these statutory standards must be followed, they need not be the only criteria.

A juvenile judge, in weighing the gravity of the offense allegedly committed, should accord greater weight to offenses against the person than against property. The same equation is applicable to the element of violence. In this regard, the court is at liberty to balance the maliciousness and deliberateness of the act against possible justifications, such as self-defense, provocation and lack of mental capacity. Moreover, previous acts of delinquency, their frequency, seriousness and relationship to the present charge are all relevant considerations in determining the rehabilitative prospects of the juvenile.

The age of the juvenile is of some significance as it bears upon the opportunity of the court to exercise its jurisdiction and to select appropriate procedures for rehabilitation. However, age alone should never be the determinative factor. The Legislature, in enacting the juvenile statute, manifested an intention that juveniles should, in the ordinary case, be subject to juvenile court jurisdiction. Transfer therefore should be the exception and not the rule. See Kent, supra, 383 U.S. at 560-61, 86 S.Ct. 1045; Harling v. United States, 111 U.S.App.D.C. 174, 177-178, 295 F.2d 161, 164-65 (1961).

We note that Kent also requires that if the juvenile's social and juvenile records are to be considered by the court at the transfer hearing, copies of the same are required to be supplied in advance to the juvenile's counsel. Kent recognizes that the juvenile court may consider records which have been submitted ex parte, but at the same time it is required to supply this material to the juvenile's attorney in order that counsel may have an opportunity to test its reliability. The disclosure of a juvenile's report to his counsel is now statutorily mandated in this State. W.Va.Code, 49-5-1(c) (1977).

All of the procedural rules surrounding a transfer hearing have evolved from the basic premise that a transfer hearing is a critical stage in the proceeding against the juvenile. See Kent v. United States, supra; Watkins v. United States, 119 U.S.App.D.C. 409, 503, 343 F.2d 278, 282 (1964); State v. McArdle, supra. The 1977 amendments to W.Va.Code, 49-5-1, et seq., have added further procedural safeguards beyond those set out in Kent and McArdle. 2

In theory the transfer hearing is invoked by the State where there are special circumstances which may...

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23 cases
  • Mark E.P., Matter of
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • January 30, 1985
    ...probable cause because a transfer proceeding is not for the purpose of adjudicating guilt or innocence. Syl. pt. 3, State ex rel. Smith v. Scott, , 238 S.E.2d 223 (1977); W.Va.Code, 49-5-10(b). So long as the transfer proceeding is conducted prior to the adjudicatory hearing on the merits, ......
  • Hinkle v. Black
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • December 18, 1979
    ...neglect proceeding where no facts of case would support the petition under statutory definition of "neglect"); and, State ex rel. Smith v. Scott, W.Va., 238 S.E.2d 223 (1977) (writ granted to prevent transfer proceedings where no data provided to allow court to make transfer under the statu......
  • State v. Gary
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • September 19, 1978
    ...and give its reasons for making the transfer. State ex rel. E. D. v. Aldredge, W.Va., 245 S.E.2d 849 (1978); State ex rel. Smith v. Scott, W.Va., 238 S.E.2d 223 (1977); State v. McArdle, 156 W.Va. 409, 194 S.E.2d 174 Likewise, in Louk v. Haynes, W.Va., 223 S.E.2d 780 (1976), it was determin......
  • E. H., In re
    • United States
    • West Virginia Supreme Court
    • March 31, 1981
    ...into play double jeopardy principles, if the case is then transferred to the adult criminal court. See note 3, State ex rel. Smith v. Scott, W.Va., 238 S.E.2d 223 (1977). An examination of the factual record reveals ample testimony to support a finding of probable cause to believe that the ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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