Stuart v. State ex rel. Jannings

Decision Date25 May 1977
Docket NumberNo. 2-59298,2-59298
Citation253 N.W.2d 910
PartiesDebra Lee STUART, Appellant, v. STATE of Iowa ex rel. Larry D. JANNINGS, Probation Officer, Appellee.
CourtIowa Supreme Court

Wilson, Goodhue & Fowler by James F. Fowler, Indianola, for appellant.

Richard C. Turner, Atty. Gen., Richard H. Doyle IV, Asst. Atty. Gen., Richard J. Murphy, County Atty., for appellee.

Heard by MOORE, C. J., and RAWLINGS, LeGRAND, REES and REYNOLDSON, JJ.

RAWLINGS, Justice.

Debra Lee Stuart (defendant) takes permissive appeal from concurrently entered orders by Clarke County Juvenile Court overruling a special appearance and transferring a felony-based delinquent child proceeding for proper action under the criminal law. We reverse.

January 16, 1976, Debra was arrested in connection with an alleged breaking and entering of a Clarke County farm home.

January 29, juvenile probation officer Larry Jannings executed an attendant verified delinquency petition.

February 1, Debra attained her 18th birthday.

February 3, Jannings filed said petition in Clarke County Juvenile Court. Concomitantly, Jannings filed an "application to transfer to adult court".

February 6, an order was entered fixing February 17 as the time for hearing on the delinquency petition and transfer application. Ten minutes before the noticed hearing time, Debra's attorney filed a special appearance thereby alleging, in substance, (1) the juvenile court had not assumed or exercised exclusive original jurisdiction before Debra reached age 18; (2) jurisdiction was lacking to either entertain the delinquency petition or order a transfer for prosecution under criminal law; and (3) Clarke District Court had no jurisdiction absent a transfer before Debra reached her 18th birthday.

A transcript of the February 17 proceedings is before us. This is the prefatory hearing-based statement:

"THE COURT: In regard to the above-captioned matter, being Juvenile No. 167, there is for decision by the Court an application to transfer to adult court; and there is also the special appearance of Debra Lee Stuart. And it's the Court's understanding that by way of agreed facts the record may show that the alleged offense occurred on January 16, 1976."

There follows what may be best described as terse agreements between judge and counsel as to relevant times, with no direct reference to issues before the juvenile court. And this is the final transcript remark: "THE COURT: Off the record." Thereupon the "case was closed".

February 27, Debra's special appearance was overruled, and upon a finding she had "reached her 18th birthday on February 1, 1976", the cause was ordered transferred to district court.

The record also reflects the filing of a county attorney's information, time not shown, charging Debra with breaking and entering in violation of Section 708.8, The Code.

As stated by defendant, these are the issues raised on this appeal:

(1) Did Clarke Juvenile Court obtain jurisdiction over appellant before she reached her 18th birthday?

(2) If not, could it obtain or exercise its exclusive original jurisdiction by filing a delinquency petition and/or transfer application thereafter?

(3) Did the Clarke Juvenile Court lose its exclusive original jurisdiction over appellant by failing to file a delinquency petition or transfer application, or by failing to have a hearing thereon or otherwise act before appellant reached her 18th birthday?

(4) Was appellant transferred to Clarke Juvenile Court in substantial compliance with Sections 232.64-232.66, The Code 1975?

(5) If Clarke Juvenile Court did not obtain or exercise its exclusive original jurisdiction over appellant within the time or in the manner specified by Ch. 232, does the Clarke District Court have jurisdiction to prosecute her as an adult for an offense allegedly committed before her 18th birthday?

(6) Did the Clarke Juvenile Court err in overruling appellant's special appearance?

Not all claims thus made need be specifically considered.

I. Defendant initially contends a juvenile court has no jurisdiction where the person involved is under 18 at time of an alleged offense but attains that age before attendant proceedings are there initiated. Stated otherwise, the question put is whether a juvenile court's jurisdiction is determined by age at time of the given offense or when related juvenile proceedings are commenced. Apparently, this is for us a matter of first impression.

Courts in other jurisdictions, when faced with this problem, have adopted fractionated views. See 47 Am.Jur.2d, Juvenile Courts, Etc., § 27; 43 C.J.S. Infants § 98 b. (2)(b); Annots., 89 A.L.R.2d 506; 48 A.L.R.2d 663, 695. It would appear, however, the demarcations stem largely from variant statutory schemes. Therefore, our analysis will focus upon relevant in pari materia provisions of ch. 232. See Catholic Char. of Arch. of Dubuque v. Zalesky, 232 N.W.2d 539, 544 (Iowa 1975); 2A Sutherland, Statutory Construction, §§ 51.02-51.03 (4th ed. 1973). See Northern Natural Gas Company v. Forst, 205 N.W.2d 692, 695 (Iowa 1973); Mallory v. Paradise, 173 N.W.2d 264, 266 (Iowa 1969).

Section 232.2(3) defines a "minor" or "child" as "a person less than eighteen years of age * * * ."

Section 232.62 says: "The criminal court shall have concurrent jurisdiction with the juvenile court over children less than eighteen years of age who commit a criminal offense."

Section 232.63, as amended by 1975 Session, Sixty-Sixth General Assembly, ch. 142, § 10, states:

"The juvenile court shall have exclusive original jurisdiction, only, in proceedings concerning any child alleged to be delinquent, or a child alleged to be in need of assistance, and in proceedings for termination of parental rights under sections 232.41 through 232.50, and in proceedings concerning any minor alleged to have been a delinquent prior to having become eighteen years of age except as otherwise provided by law."

Section 232.67 provides: "Jurisdiction obtained by the court in the case of a minor shall be retained by the court until the minor becomes eighteen years of age unless terminated prior thereto by order of court or provision of law. * * *."

Section 232.26 contains a similar statement.

The foregoing would facially imply our juvenile courts lose jurisdiction once a child becomes 18. See In Interest of Storm, 223 N.W.2d 170, 172 (Iowa 1974).

But as observed in Northern Natural Gas Company v. Forst, 205 N.W.2d at 695, other statutory enactments and guiding precepts must be considered in determining the true legislative intent and purpose.

So we look to section 232.64 which significantly declares:

"All juveniles appearing in any court other than the juvenile court and charged with a public offense not exempted by law and who are under eighteen years of age or who were under eighteen years of age at the time of the commission of the alleged offense shall immediately be transferred to the juvenile court of the county." (emphasis supplied).

In Mallory v. Paradise, 173 N.W.2d at 268, we held the above quoted enactment: "* * * is a direct requirement that a juvenile must be transferred to juvenile court if he appears in any other court charged with a public offense not exempted from the operation of chapter 232."

Admittedly, this statement from Mallory is not instantly dispositive. Therefore, absent prior pertinent decisions by this court we look to relevant holdings in other jurisdictions. See generally State v. Jaeger, 249 N.W.2d 688, 690 (Iowa 1977); Goergen v. State Tax Commission, 165 N.W.2d 782, 788 (Iowa 1969); Burak v. Ditson, 209 Iowa 926, 928, 229 N.W. 227 (1930); 20 Am.Jur.2d, Courts, § 203; 21 C.J.S. Courts § 204.

Recently, in a case involving similar though not identical statutes, juvenile courts were held to have jurisdiction over individuals under 18 at time of an alleged offense even though the party be over 18 when proceedings are commenced. See State v. Fleming, 302 Minn. 61, 223 N.W.2d 397 (1974). As supportively stated, id., at 400:

"It seems clear to us that the essential question therefore is not when prosecution takes place, but rather, when the alleged violation took place. The purpose of the statute is to protect juveniles from acts committed when presumably they were not of mature mind and body."

Cf. State v. Dugan, 297 Minn. 374, 211 N.W.2d 876, 878 (1973).

Another well reasoned case holding to the same effect is P.H. v. State, 504 P.2d 837 (Alaska 1972). This is the court's rationale, id., at 841-842:

"For a number of reasons we have determined that the phrase 'under 18 years of age' refers to the age of the accused person at the time of the alleged offense. First, as a general rule, the punishment for an offense is governed by the law in effect at the time the offense is committed. More fundamentally, we note the principal precept behind the children's court concept: that a person under eighteen years of age does not have mature judgment and may not fully realize the consequences of his acts, and that therefore he should not generally have to bear the stigma of a criminal conviction for the rest of his life. To allow officials charged with the execution of the law to prosecute a child offender as a criminal merely by deferring action until the child's eighteenth birthday would frustrate this purpose. Finally, serious constitutional issues would arise if the nature of the proceedings against a child offender were to depend on the arbitrary decision of law enforcement officials."

This court is satisfied the foregoing views comport with the above quoted § 232.64 mandate. Any other finding would, in effect, serve to impermissibly excise § 232.64 from the Code. See Iowa Civil Rights Com'n v. Massey-Ferguson, Inc., 207 N.W.2d 5, 7 (Iowa 1973). Also, the legislative intent and purpose thereby expressed would be otherwise defeated. See State v. One Certain Conveyance, 1971 Honda 350, etc., 211 N.W.2d 297, 299-300 (Iowa 1973). See also Code § 4.1(36)(a)....

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