OLR Bill Analysis

sHB 7050

AN ACT CONCERNING THE JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM.

SUMMARY:

This bill makes various changes affecting the juvenile justice system.

It changes when cases may or must be transferred from juvenile court to adult criminal court, including:

1. eliminating automatic transfers for children aged 14 through 17 who are charged with class B felonies and

2. raising the minimum age, from 14 to 15, for the (a) automatic transfer for more serious crimes and (b) discretionary transfer for any felonies not subject to automatic transfer.

As is already the case for children age 16 or younger, the bill requires the presence of a parent or guardian for a confession or other statement by a 16- or 17-year-old to be admissible in court. The bill also extends this requirement to all proceedings, not just delinquency proceedings.

The bill (1) creates a presumption that mechanical restraints (such as shackles) will be removed from a juvenile during juvenile court proceedings prior to a determination of delinquency, (2) specifies when such restraints may be allowed, and (3) requires the Judicial Branch to keep related statistical information.

It also adds to the Juvenile Justice Policy and Oversight Committee's membership and responsibilities. For example, it requires the committee to (1) implement a strategic plan and report on the plan by January 1, 2016 and (2) annually report on certain matters beyond the current January 1, 2017 end date for its responsibilities.

EFFECTIVE DATE: October 1, 2015

1—TRANSFER TO ADULT CRIMINAL COURT

Automatic Transfer

Current law requires the juvenile court to automatically transfer a child aged 14 through 17 to adult criminal court if he or she is charged with a capital felony committed prior to April 25, 2012, a class A or B felony (see BACKGROUND), or arson murder. The bill eliminates this automatic transfer for class B felonies. It also eliminates the automatic transfer of 14-year-olds for the other crimes.

Under current law, after an automatic transfer, the state's attorney may file a motion to return the matter back to juvenile court if the child is charged with (1) a class B felony or (2) 1st degree sexual assault involving sexual intercourse with a victim under age 13 when the perpetrator is more than two years older. The bill eliminates this provision.

Discretionary Transfer

Under current law, for children age 14 through 17 who are charged with class C, D, or E or unclassified felonies, the prosecutor has discretion to request a transfer to adult court. The bill raises this age threshold to 15, and allows prosecutors to request such a transfer for class B felonies.

As under existing law, the court can order the transfer only if (1) there is probable cause to believe that the child committed the alleged offense and (2) the best interests of both the child and public are not served by keeping the case in juvenile court. The court must hold a hearing and consider certain factors before ordering such a transfer.

For these discretionary transfers, the adult criminal court can return the case to juvenile court any time before a jury verdict or guilty plea, upon a showing of good cause.

2—ADMISSIBILITY OF STATEMENTS

Under existing law, an admission, confession, or other statement made by a child under age 16 to a police officer or juvenile court official is inadmissible in a delinquency proceeding, unless it was made with a parent or guardian present and after both the child and the parent or guardian had been advised (1) of the child's right to remain silent and to counsel, and to have counsel appointed if unable to afford one, and (2) that the confession can be used against the child in court. (These advisements are often referred to collectively as a Miranda warning.)

The bill extends this requirement to all proceedings, not just delinquency proceedings. Presumably, this includes cases transferred to adult court as specified above. Currently, the parent or guardian presence requirement does not apply to such cases (State v. Ledbetter, 263 Conn. 1 (2003)).

The bill also extends the requirement of a parent's or guardian's presence to statements made by 16- or 17-year olds.

Under current law for this age group, in certain delinquency proceedings, these statements may be admissible even if made without a parent or guardian present. Current law requires the police or court official to (1) make reasonable efforts to contact the parent or guardian, and (2) advise the child of his or her Miranda rights. In determining whether to admit the statement, the court must apply a totality of the circumstances test.

4—MECHANICAL RESTRAINTS IN JUVENILE COURT PROCEEDINGS

Under the bill, there is a presumption that all mechanical restraints will be removed from a detained juvenile appearing in juvenile court. The presumption applies before the juvenile appears in court and throughout his or her court appearances, until the final adjudication of the case.

The bill allows the in-court use of mechanical restraints for these juveniles only upon court order and under the written policy of the Judicial Branch (see BACKGROUND).

The bill requires the Judicial Branch to keep statistics on the use of mechanical restraints during juvenile proceedings. It requires the branch to provide these statistics to any member of the public upon request. Before doing so, the branch must redact any information that would identify a juvenile.

3—JUVENILE JUSTICE POLICY AND OVERSIGHT COMMITTEE (JJPOC)

Legislation enacted last year established the JJPOC to evaluate and report on (1) juvenile justice system policies and (2) the extension of juvenile jurisdiction to 16- and 17-year-olds.

Membership

Under current law, the JJPOC has 35 members. The bill adds to the committee the:

1. labor, social services, and public health commissioners, or their designees and

2. chief of police of a municipality with a population over 100,000, appointed by the president of the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.

Reporting Requirements

Existing law requires the JJPOC to submit specific reports to the Appropriations, Children's, Human Services, and Judiciary committees and the Office of Policy and Management (OPM) secretary. The first report was due January 1, 2015; the next report is due July 1, 2015; and quarterly reports are due after that until January 1, 2017.

Strategic Plan. By law, among the required components of the first report were short-, medium-, and long-term goals for the JJPOC and state agencies with juvenile justice system responsibilities, developed after considering existing relevant reports related to the juvenile justice system and any related state strategic plan.

The bill requires the JJPOC to implement a strategic plan integrating these goals. As part of the plan's implementation, the JJPOC must collaborate with (1) municipal police departments and (2) any state agency with juvenile justice system responsibilities, including the Judicial Branch and the departments of children and families (DCF), correction, education (SDE), labor, and mental health and addiction services.

By January 1, 2016, the committee must report the plan to the Appropriations, Children's, Human Services, and Judiciary committees and the OPM secretary. The report must (1) address progress toward the plan's full implementation and (2) include any recommendations on the implementation of these goals by municipal police departments or any involved state agency.

Recommendations to Improve Juvenile Justice System. The bill requires the JJPOC to assess the juvenile justice system and make any recommendations to improve it. The JJPOC must report on the assessment and recommendations to the recipients noted above, by July 1 of 2016, 2017, and 2018. The reports must address:

1. educational outcomes and mental health and substance abuse treatment programs and services for children and youths (i.e., aged 16 or 17) involved with the juvenile justice system, or at risk of this involvement;

2. disproportionate minority contact with children and youths involved with the juvenile justice system;

3. training on the system for state agencies and municipal police departments;

4. diverting at-risk children and youths from the system;

5. recidivism tracking and policies and procedures to reduce recidivism;

6. data sharing among public and private juvenile justice agencies and other child services agencies, including SDE, to evaluate the system's effectiveness and efficiency;

7. vocational educational opportunities for children and youths in the system, until they turn 21;

8. oversight of, and reduction in, the use of restraints for children and youths, and reduction in the use of seclusion and room confinement in juvenile justice facilities;

9. evidence-based positive behavioral support strategies and other evidence-based or research-informed strategies to reduce the reliance on restraints and seclusion; and

10. programs and facilities using restraints or seclusion for children or youths and any data regarding this use, including the rate and duration of use for children and youths with disabilities.

Reporting on Progress. Existing law requires the JJPOC to submit quarterly reports on the progress of its goals and measures, starting by July 1, 2015 until January 1, 2017. The bill extends this requirement to include annual reporting after that.

Consultation and Support. Current law requires the JJPOC, in meeting its requirements for the reports due in January and July 2015, to consult with one or more organizations that focus on relevant children and youth issues, such as the University of New Haven and any of its institutes. The bill requires this consultation for all of the JJPOC's responsibilities. It also specifically allows the committee to accept administrative support and technical and research assistance from these organizations.

By law, the JJPOC must also work in collaboration with any results first initiatives implemented by law, including those implemented by the Results First Policy Oversight Committee (CGS 2-111).

BACKGROUND

Class A and B Felonies and Disposition in Juvenile vs. Criminal Court

Examples of class A felonies include murder, 1st degree kidnapping, home invasion, and 1st degree arson. Examples of class B felonies include 1st degree (1) manslaughter, (2) assault, (3) robbery, (4) money laundering, and (5) larceny.

When handled in criminal court, authorized prison terms are generally (1) up to 25 years for class A felonies and (2) up to 20 years for class B felonies. For some A or B felonies, there are (1) longer maximum terms (e.g., 60 years for murder) or (2) mandatory minimum terms.

If a child or youth is adjudicated delinquent in a juvenile court for violating a criminal statute, the court may order various sentences, such as an alternative incarceration program, probation, or commitment to DCF. DCF commitment may be for up to four years for a “serious juvenile offense” or up to 18 months for other offenses. Serious juvenile offenses include, among other things, (1) murder with special circumstances (previously, capital felony); (2) arson murder, (3) all class A felonies; and (4) many class B felonies.

DCF may extend the commitment beyond these periods if it can prove to the court that doing so would be in the best interest of the child or the community. DCF commitments for delinquency end when the child reaches age 20 (CGS 46b-140, 141).

Judicial Branch Policy on Use of Mechanical Restraints in Juvenile Courts

Effective April 1, 2015, a Judicial Branch policy established a presumption that mechanical restraints will be removed from a juvenile prior to and throughout his or her appearance in juvenile court. Under the policy, in-court restraints may be used only pursuant to a judge's order in accordance with the policy.

The policy requires a classification and program officer from the court support services division to complete a form prior to transporting a juvenile to juvenile court. On the form, the officer must indicate whether restraints are recommended and, if so, the types. The policy specifies factors that must be present to support the use of these restraints (e.g., whether the juvenile has threatened or attempted to escape or is charged with a class A felony).

If the juvenile's lawyer or other parties disagree with the recommendation, they may address the court prior to the juvenile's court appearance. After hearing from all parties, the judge determines which restraints, if any, are appropriate.

Any restraints removed under this policy must be immediately reapplied upon completion of the court hearing, in a secure area outside the courtroom.

COMMITTEE ACTION

Judiciary Committee

Joint Favorable Substitute

Yea

24

Nay

20

(04/09/2015)