The “Incorrigible” John Doe

Skelly, a public defender who blogs at Arbitrary and Capricious (the newest addition to the Juvienation blogroll), alerts me to an interesting Idaho appellate court ruling from early November, which, he writes, “found that raising one’s voice a little is not sufficient to bring a youth within the purview of the Juvenile Corrections Act.” According to the ruling, an unidentified teenager assigned the name John Doe

had been residing with his older sister in California for about a year when, on July 5, 2005, he went to his parents’ residence in Idaho. On July 7, Doe, who was fifteen years old, had a disagreement with his parents about whether he would be permitted to continue living with his sister in California. Doe wanted to return to California, but his parents wanted him to remain with them. During the disagreement, Doe left the residence to “cool off.” Doe’s sister, who was also present at the Idaho residence, became alarmed when Doe left and called the police. An officer located Doe across the street from his parents’ residence. Another officer went to the residence, where the parents told the officer that they did not want Doe to be charged with anything for his conduct. The officer with Doe warned him that, if the police were called back to the residence again that night, Doe would be arrested for being incorrigible. Later that night, the police responded to a call that there was a suicidal fifteen-year-old male at the same residence. Doe told the police that he had threatened to harm himself with a lamp cord. The officer who had spoken with Doe during the initial encounter then arrested Doe.

Doe was brought in on two charges: “arguing with his parents” and “leaving the house without permission.” (Can you imagine what would happen if every teenager who committed such vile acts were locked up, as Doe was? Where would they sleep? And, more important, who would watch Gossip Girl?) As it turns out, in the end, such misbehavior does not warrant adjudication. According to the Court of Appeals, which reversed a magistrate’s decision and a district court’s affirmation of Doe’s sentence,

The testimony establishes that on the night of his arrest Doe raised his voice a little while he argued with his parents in a respectful manner and was arrested primarily because the police were called to the residence twice. We conclude that this does not constitute substantial evidence from which a reasonable trier of fact could have found Doe was beyond the control of his parents on July 7, 2005. Other courts that have discussed the phrase ‘beyond the control of the parents’ have likewise held that the legislative body–in this case the Twin Falls City Council–could not have intended that phrase to include an isolated act by a minor which poses no hazard to the minor or anyone else….

There was insufficient evidence for the magistrate to find Doe fell within the purview of the JCA under Twin Falls City Ordinance 6-6-3 for being incorrigible by arguing with his parents on July 7, 2005. Accordingly, we reverse the district court’s order and vacate the magistrate’s decree.

Let that be a lesson to you, Idaho courts. Now go to your rooms and don’t come out until you have a better understanding of what constitutes juvenile delinquency.

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One response to “The “Incorrigible” John Doe

  1. Pingback: And sometimes the law makes you sick « The Seventh Year

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