Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Juvenile Rights v. Rehabilitation

Juvenile Rights v. Rehabilitation; Juvenile Delinquency, Juvenile Delinquency AppealsConcerns in Juvenile Intake

"The ‘rehabilitative model’ often results in harsher punishments for the honest juvenile and easier punishments for the dishonest and experienced juvenile."

This article continues a series of articles examining issues in juvenile justice and will discuss: 1) Juvenile Assessment Center ("JAC") procedures for obtaining urine samples; 2) consents for psycho-social assessments and urine samples; and, 3) exposure to excessive punishment for a charge based upon the amount of information a juvenile discloses to the case manager.

First, the obtaining of urine samples for drug tests and the Agency for Community Treatment Services ("ACTS") policy behind such tests pose serious threats to juvenile rights. ACTS management requires case managers to maintain high numbers of urine samples because the facility receives grant money for each sample. This grant money provides a major source of funding for the JAC. A case manager may obtain questionable consent by not informing a juvenile that he has an option to decline to submit a urine sample. In addition, the procedures for obtaining a urine sample from a juvenile appear not conform to the standards set forth by the F.D.L.E. State of Florida v. Bodden, 27 Fla. L. Weekly D 2382 (2nd DCA 2002) is analogous. Bodden dealt with the method of administration and analysis of a urine test in a DUI case. The court held urine tests for the presence of chemical or controlled substances must be performed according to the methods approved by the F.D.L.E and in accordance with the Florida Administrative Procedures Act. Protocol in JAC procedures may pose problems with the admissibility of such evidence in court.

Second, the juvenile’s parent(s) are not present for the psycho-social assessment or the juvenile’s consent to the assessment and urine sample. The parents are typically unaware of the intake procedures until meeting with the case manager after the proceedings are complete. The juvenile typically consents to intake proceedings and waives counsel because she is scared, confused, or has no one to advise her that it may be in her best interest to decline.

Lastly, the information gathered by a case manager during intake proceedings gives them wide-range discretion when making a recommendation for a diversion program. The "rehabilitative model" often results in harsher punishments for an honest juvenile and easier punishment for the dishonest and experienced juvenile. Based on information disclosed by the juvenile in intake proceedings, a first time offender charged with petit theft can be placed in an intensive diversion program such as Intensive Delinquency Diversion Services or Juvenile Drug Court (see last article for description). However, if a juvenile charged with petit theft admits to drug use, the case manager might recommend Juvenile Drug Court requiring the juvenile to submit urine samples twice a week for a year. The problem with these recommendations is that juveniles who lie or make no lifestyle admissions have the potential to receive much easier diversion programs than those who are honest and admit substance abuse, school, or family issues.

In conclusion, this article attempts to describe the JAC intake process and unveil a few concerns with this contact. Lawyers should continue to question the practices, procedures, and diversion recommendations of this facility.

Long-term Impacts On Criminal Convictions

Long-term Impacts On Criminal ConvictionsLosing parental rights is a significant impact resulting from a criminal conviction, even while it is a collateral consequence of the conviction.

Everyone knows that a prison sentence entails much more than simply serving the time. A convicted felon will be reminded of his mistake for the rest of his life. Whether it be obtaining employment, registering to vote, or applying for a driver’s license; there are many different ways a convicted felon is reminded of when she broke the law. A recent Florida Supreme Court decision reminds us how a conviction can also terminate parental rights.

B.C. v. Florida Department of Children and Families, 29 Fla. L. Weekly S 508 (2004) involved the termination of parental rights of a father serving a prison sentence. Section 39.806(1)(d)(1), Florida Statutes (2003) states that, "The department may petition for the termination of parental rights when the parent of a child is incarcerated in a state or federal correctional institution and the period of time for which the parent is expected to be incarcerated will constitute a substantial portion of the period of time before the child will attain the age of 18 years." Attorneys, especially those practicing dependency law, are very familiar with this statute section. However, the issue in B.C. was whether "substantial portion" was to be weighed against the entire period of incarceration, or if the language pertained to only the remaining time to be served after the petition for termination is filed.

First, the court considered how much time constitutes a "substantial portion of the time before the child reaches 18." The father in B.C. had approximately four years left to serve in his seven year seven month prison sentence. The father’s four-year old child had fourteen years remaining until reaching the age of majority. The Florida Supreme Court agreed with the trial court and concluded that, "the four years remaining in the father’s sentence was not a substantial portion of the remaining fourteen-year minority of the child." Id. at 511.

If the court considered the entire period of incarceration, the father in B.C. would have his parental rights terminated because his total sentence was more than 50% of the remaining fourteen-year minority, which would be considered a substantial portion. However, in this same situation, if the court considered the time remaining on the prison sentence, this same individual will be able to remain a father when he completes his prison sentence. B.C. held that the period of incarceration remaining after the petition is filed is the appropriate standard. Id. at 509. Applying this rationale, B.C. concluded that before parental rights may be terminated, "the trial court must find by clear and convincing evidence that the time remaining in the parent’s incarceration constitutes a substantial portion of the time remaining before the child or children attain the age of eighteen years." Id. at 511.

Why is B.C. beneficial to a defense attorney? If you represent a parent in a criminal case, you may have to advise her of the long-term impacts a conviction may have on her future. It is crucial to be aware of B.C. because accepting a plea of X years may result in the termination of parental rights. While a collateral consequence of the conviction, losing parental rights is still a significant impact resulting from a criminal conviction.

B.C. is a constant reminder of the long-range impacts of criminal convictions. Attorneys who inform their clients of all possible negative impacts from a conviction are providing the highest quality legal services.