Delinquent/Unruly Proceedings

215

Rule 210: Adjudicatory Hearings.

(a) Scope of Hearing.  The adjudicatory hearing is the proceeding at which the court determines whether the evidence supports a finding that a child is delinquent or unruly, and whether the child is in need of treatment and rehabilitation. The adjudicatory hearing shall be held in accordance with T.C.A. § 37-1-129.

(b)  Time Limits on Scheduling Adjudicatory Hearings.  In all cases, except violations of valid court orders, in which a child is in detention or otherwise has been placed out of the home by court order shall be heard within 30 days of the date the child was placed outside of the home. For good cause shown, the adjudicatory hearing may be continued beyond the 30 day time limit to a date certain as the court may direct.All other cases shall be heard within 30 days of the date of the filing of the petition if such scheduling appears to the court to be reasonable and possible considering the circumstances of the case, including without limitation, whether service on all parties has been achieved. Every case shall be heard within 90 daysof the date of the filing of the petition. For good cause shown, the adjudicatory hearing may be continued beyond the 90 day time limit to a date certain as the court may direct.

(a) Beginning Adjudicatory Hearing.  At the beginning of each hearing, the court shall:

(1)  Ascertain whether the parties before the court are represented by attorneys;

(2)  Verify the name, age and residence of the child who is the subject of the case, and ascertain the relationship of the parties, each to the other;

(3)  Ascertain whether all necessary parties are present;

(4)  Ascertain whether notice requirements have been complied with, and if not, whether the affected parties knowingly and voluntarily waive compliance;

(5)  Explain to the parties the purpose of the hearing and the possible consequences thereof; and

(6)  Explain to the parties their rights as set forth in Rule 205.

(b) Evidence Admissible.  The court shall consider only evidence which has been formally admitted at the adjudicatory hearing. All testimony shall be under oath and may be in narrative form.  Evidence shall be admitted as provided by the Tennessee Rules of Evidence. Evidence illegally seized or obtained shall not be received over objection to establish the allegations in the petition. In addition, no statement made by a child to the youth services officer or designated intake officer shall be admissible against the child prior to the dispositional hearing.

(c) Adjudication; Standard of Proof; and Findings in Delinquent Cases.  At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing, the court shall enter an order in accordance with the following provisions:

(1)  If the court finds that the delinquent offense has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it shall dismiss the petition.

(2)  If the court finds that the delinquent offense has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it shall enter an order finding the child guilty and shall immediately proceed to a hearing to determine whether the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation, or shall schedule it for a later date.  At that hearing:

(A) If the court does not find that the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation, no further proceedings shall be held and the court shall discharge the child from any detention or other restriction previously ordered. In such event, the court shall enter an order finding that the child is not in need of treatment or rehabilitation. The child shall not be adjudicated delinquent.

(B) If the court finds the child is in need of treatment and rehabilitation, it shall enter an order finding that the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation and that the child is adjudicated delinquent. The court shall immediately proceed to a dispositional hearing or schedule it to be heard on a later date.

(d)  Adjudication; Standard of Proof; and Findings in Unruly Cases.  At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing, the court shall enter an order in accordance with the following provisions:

(1)  If the court finds that the unruly offense has not been proved by clear and convincing evidence, it shall dismiss the petition.

(2)  If the court finds that the unruly offense has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, it shall enter an order finding the child guilty and shall immediately proceed to a hearing to determine whether the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation, or shall schedule it for a later date.  At that hearing:

(A) If the court does not find that the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation, no further proceedings shall be held and the court shall discharge the child from any detention or other restriction previously ordered. In such event, the court shall enter an order finding that the child is not in need of treatment or rehabilitation. The child shall not be adjudicated unruly.

(B) If the court finds the child is in need of treatment and rehabilitation, it shall enter an order finding that the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation and that the child is adjudicated unruly. The court shall immediately proceed to a dispositional hearing or schedule it to be heard on a later date.

(e) Transfer to Home County.  The case of an out-of-county resident may be transferred to the child’s county of residence for disposition.

Advisory Commission Comments.

It is the Commission’s intent that the court consider only evidence which has been properly admitted during the adjudicatory hearing. The Commission recognizes that the court may have held one or more hearings prior to the adjudicatory hearing which may have resulted in the admission of evidence.  Furthermore, the Commission recognizes that the court’s file may contain reports and other items submitted by the Department, CASA, law enforcement, or service providers.  Such reports and items may not be considered by the court unless properly admitted during the adjudicatory hearing.

This rule combines previous Rule 17 regarding Time Limits on Scheduling Adjudicatory Hearings and Rule 28 Adjudicatory Hearings. The Commission felt this to be logically consistent and would aid practitioners’ use of the rule. This rule highlights the statutory framework of a delinquent or unruly case with regard to the adjudicatory hearing. 

This rule does not apply to a violation of a Valid Court Order.

During the adjudicatory hearing and prior to disposition, the court makes two distinct findings with regard to each child charged as a delinquent or unruly child: whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain the allegations in the petition, and, if so, whether the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation.  Upon making these findings, the court then proceeds to the dispositional hearing. T.C.A. § 37-1-129(b) states that upon a finding of guilt the court must “proceed immediately or at a postponed hearing” to determine whether the child is “in need of treatment or rehabilitation.” This is consistent with the definition of “delinquent child” under T.C.A. § 37-1-102(b) (“delinquent child means a child who has committed a delinquent act and is in need of treatment and rehabilitation”), and T.C.A. § 37-1-129(f), which allows the court to continue the adjudicatory hearing to receive evidence bearing upon the issue of treatment and rehabilitation.  Similarly, the definition of “unruly child” under T.C.A. § 37-1-102(b) also requires a finding of “in need of treatment and rehabilitation” in order to adjudicate the child to be an unruly child.

The Commission understands that many courts may, in an effort to achieve judicial economy, and absent contrary circumstances, elect to conduct both the “treatment and rehabilitation” phase of the adjudicatory hearing and the dispositional hearing immediately after the guilt phase of the adjudicatory hearing. In the event the court continues the adjudicatory hearing to receive evidence bearing upon the issue of treatment and rehabilitation, the court has the authority pursuant to T.C.A. § 37-1-129(f) to issue orders regarding the child pending the resumption of the hearing.  

The Commission notes that T.C.A. § 37-1-129(b) states that the commission of acts which constitute a felony or that reflect recidivistic delinquency is sufficient to sustain a finding that the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation.

The Commission notes that the Juvenile Offender Act, T.C.A. § 55-10-701 et. seq., also known as the Drug Free Youth Act, requires the adjudicatory court to send to the Department of Safety an order of denial of driving privileges when the child is “convicted of the offense.”  As explained above, a conviction does not necessarily lead to an adjudication of delinquency due to the added requirement that the court find that the child is in need of treatment and rehabilitation. All parties must be aware of the court’s duty under the Act.

The new rule changes the requirement that the adjudicatory hearing be “scheduled for adjudication” within either 30 or 90 days to a requirement that the adjudicatory hearing be “heard.”

The varying time limits in these rules for children in custody or detention and children not in custody indicate the Commission’s strong intent that cases involving children in custody, and especially in secure detention, be given priority on the docket. Of course, all hearings should be scheduled and held as speedily as possible in the interest of providing timely treatment for children. The Commission recognizes the fact that a child's perception of time is quite different from that of an adult, with shorter periods of time being felt as being much extended, so that it is important that whatever action is taken be taken expeditiously, within the limits of practicability.

There are instances, however, where it will be quite appropriate to allow for a relatively longer period of time prior to disposition, in particular, for the child to prove to the court that a less restrictive disposition may be desirable in the case, for example. This is the purpose of the longer 90-day limit in cases in which children are not being held in custody, and of the provisions allowing for extensions of the time limits. Another valid reason for extensions of the limits would be to obtain psychological evaluations and testing which could not be obtained within the specified time limits.

In any case in which the time limits prescribed are not complied with, or in which the provisions for continuances are not complied with, the court may dismiss the charges with prejudice where it determines that failure to comply with the time limits constitutes a violation of the child's right to a speedy trial. In any case in which the time limits prescribed are not complied with, or in which the provisions for extensions are not complied with, the court may discharge the child from the jurisdiction of the juvenile court if the court determines that the interests of justice so require.

These rules do not require a pretrial conference; however, the Commission encourages courts to schedule a pretrial conference or settlement date during which negotiations may occur with the parties and counsel, law enforcement, victims, and the district attorney.

[As amended by order filed December 21, 2016, effective July 1, 2017.]

Advisory Commission Comments [2017].

The last sentence of the third paragraph of the Advisory Commission Comments rule is deleted. That sentence (which provided "See the Appendix to these rules regarding Valid Court Orders") should have been deleted in the comprehensive revision of the Rules of Juvenile Procedure effective July 1, 2016, because the appendix to which it referred was deleted at that time.

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