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Family Law Click here for the full text of this decision The juvenile court’s failure to order a psychiatric examination of J.K.N. on its own motion was not a violation of due process. FACTS:Based upon a stipulation of evidence demonstrating J.K.N.’s unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, the juvenile court adjudicated Appellant J.K.N. delinquent and committed him to an indeterminate sentence in the Texas Youth Commission. J.K.N. complains that: The trial court erred by failing to order a psychiatric examination to determine his fitness to proceed; the evidence is insufficient to support the findings required for disposition and commitment to TYC; and the judgment and order of commitment are fundamentally defective. HOLDING:Affirmed as modified. J.K.N. contends that the trial court erred by failing to sua sponte order a psychiatric examination to determine his mental competence and fitness to proceed. Texas Family Code sec. 55.31 provides a framework for determinations of mental illness and fitness to proceed within the juvenile justice system. J.K.N. concedes that the motion contemplated by sec. 55.31 was never made in this case. And, although a juvenile court has the power to order a physical or mental examination on its own motion at any stage of juvenile proceedings, it is not statutorily required to do so. Consequently, here, the juvenile court was not statutorily required to make any determination regarding J.K.N.’s fitness to proceed. Nonetheless, J.K.N. argues that due process considerations require the court to have a juvenile examined on its own motion “where there is such blatant and extensive evidence of mental illness raised.” Although a juvenile delinquency trial is a civil proceeding, it is quasi-criminal in nature. Accordingly, a child under the juvenile justice system is afforded the basic constitutional protections of an adult. Accordingly, the court examines the record to see whether evidence exists that the trial court should have reasonably concluded that, as a result of mental illness, J.K.N. lacked the capacity to understand the proceedings, to consult with counsel, or to assist in his own defense, so that the court’s failure to order a psychiatric examination violated J.K.N.’s due process rights. For purposes of the juvenile justice code, a “mental illness” is defined as “an illness, disease, or condition, other than epilepsy, senility, alcoholism, or mental deficiency” that “substantially impairs a person’s thought, perception of reality, emotional process, or judgment” or “grossly impairs behavior as demonstrated by recent disturbed behavior.” An examination of the record does reveal some evidence that J.K.N. suffers from “mental illness.” It is undisputed that J.K.N. was referred to and spent about a week at Millwood, a facility that treats mental and psychiatric problems. Curtis Thompson, J.K.N.’s probation officer, explained that J.K.N. was transferred from the juvenile detention facility to Millwood for psychological evaluation due to “suicidal ideations, report of hallucinations, as well as threatening behavior to staff” while in detention. Thompson also indicated that J.K.N. was on the MHMR caseload for people with emotional and/or psychiatric problems and agreed that J.K.N.’s problems “at times . . . presented as severe ” He stated that J.K.N. “ clearly has some psychiatric needs . . . . However, . . . these needs can be addressed at TYC. “ Thompson’s testimony certainly indicates that J.K.N. is a troubled child with psychiatric needs. However, taken in context, the evidence does not indicate that J.K.N.’s problems rise to the level of a mental illness rendering him unfit to proceed with the adjudication and disposition of the delinquency charges brought in this case. In fact, the record as a whole clearly reflects that, in spite of his psychiatric needs, J.K.N. understood the nature of the proceedings and was able to consult with counsel and to assist in his own defense. At the adjudication hearing, J.K.N. indicated to the court that he had reviewed the alleged offenses with his attorney and understood the range of possible punishments available to the court if he were adjudicated delinquent. He said he understood his right to have the state bring witnesses forward to testify and to be cross-examined by him, and that agreeing to stipulate to the evidence would waive those rights. J.K.N. and his attorney then had an exchange in open court wherein J.K.N. expressed his understanding of many aspects of the case. The record clearly shows that J.K.N. expressed his understanding of the delinquent conduct alleged, the consequences of being adjudicated delinquent, and the effect of stipulating to evidence rather than requiring live witness testimony on the allegations. J.K.N. also indicated that his recent stay at the Millwood mental treatment center did not adversely affect his understanding of the proceedings. In addition to demonstrating his understanding of the proceedings, J.K.N. actively participated in his own defense. The court concludes that the juvenile court’s failure to order a psychiatric examination of J.K.N. on its own motion was not a violation of due process. OPINION:Walker, J; Holman, Gardner and Walker, JJ.

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