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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Ind. Decisions - One today from Supreme Court

In State of Indiana v. I.T., a 10-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rush writes:

More than half of children entering the Indiana juvenile justice system have mental health or substance abuse problems. In response, Indiana has established a pilot project to screen and treat juveniles suffering from these issues. To facilitate participation in the project, the Legislature en-acted the Juvenile Mental Health Statute, barring a child’s statement to a mental health evaluator from being admitted into evidence to prove delinquency. We construe that statute to confer both use immunity and derivative use immunity, in order to avoid a likely violation of the constitutional privileges against self-incrimination under the Fifth Amendment and Article 1, Section 14 of the Indiana Constitution. We therefore affirm the trial court. * * *

I. State’s Authority to Appeal. The Court of Appeals determined that the State lacked the statutory authority to appeal because the State may appeal criminal matters only when authorized by statute. State v. Brunner, 947 N.E.2d 411, 415 (Ind. 2011). * * *

Therefore, we conclude the State had statutory authority to appeal the trial court’s order, and we proceed to the merits of its appeal.

II. The Juvenile Mental Health Statute Must Provide Both Use and Derivative Use Immunity to Pass Constitutional Scrutiny. The State argues that the Juvenile Mental Health Statute prevents it from introducing I.T.’s actual statements to prove delinquency at trial, but not from using his statements to develop other evidence—in other words, that the Statute provides “use immunity” but not “derivative use immunity.” * * *

We will therefore construe the Statute to provide both use and derivative use immunity as a safe harbor against jeopardizing its constitutionality.

III. A Juvenile’s Compelled Statements May Not Be Used Against Him—Even in a Probable-Cause Affidavit. Because the Statute must be construed to provide use and derivative use immunity, the trial court reached the correct result. * * *

Therefore, while the Juvenile Mental Health Statute limits the State’s use of a juvenile’s statements, it does not prevent the State from ensuring that juveniles face appropriate consequences for their actions.

Conclusion. We conclude that the State may appeal a juvenile court order that suppresses evidence, if doing so terminates the proceeding. We also construe the Juvenile Mental Health Statute’s limited immunity as prohibiting both use and derivative use of a juvenile’s statements to prove delin-quency—a safe harbor that honors the Legislature’s intent, while avoiding any question of the Statute’s constitutionality that would otherwise be implicated. We therefore affirm the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 12, 2014 11:33 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions