If a teen wants to appeal a judge’s decision transferring his criminal case to adult court from the juvenile court, he’s going to be waiting a while.
That’s according to a recent split state Supreme Court decision ruling that juveniles must wait until their case has concluded in adult court before they can appeal the fact they were transferred there in the first place.
“The clear intent of the legislature is to prohibit interlocutory appeals from discretionary transfer orders,” concluded Justice Carmen Espinosa in the 15-page majority decision.
The majority opinion revolved around legislative interpretation of the statute governing discretionary transfers to adult court.
Justice Dennis Eveleigh penned a dissent, joined by Justice Richard Robinson. They said the majority opinion results in a disservice to the troubled youth.
“In view of the potential irreparable harm to the juvenile, I would conclude that a stay should be in place while the appeal is pending, and the juvenile should continue to receive juvenile services during the course of the appeal,” Eveleigh wrote. “He should also continue to be supervised by his juvenile probation officer. The effect on both the juvenile and his or her family is too devastating to allow a discretionary order to languish while the juvenile endures a criminal trial without the benefit of having the transfer order reviewed by an appellate court.
The case, In re Tyriq T., involved a then-16-year-old who was charged as a juvenile for carrying a pistol without a permit, theft of a firearm and possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle.
Prosecutors asked the juvenile judge to transfer the case to adult court. In Connecticut, juveniles charged with Class A and B felonies are automatically transferred to adult court. However, when juveniles are charged with Class C or D felonies, as was the situation in Tyriq T., it’s considered discretionary. The prosecutor must raise the motion and a judge must grant it.
The juvenile’s lawyer challenged the transfer decision, which is still pending in Waterbury. The case made its way to the state Supreme Court seeking clarity on whether a juvenile can even appeal the decision before the resolution of his case.
Assistant Public Defender Joshua Michtom, who handled the appeal, did not get the answer he was hoping for. Michtom said by the time a juvenile’s case is resolved, it could be two years later and a moot point to even try an appeal.
“When you delay the appeal until the end of the whole proceeding, my sense is it’s like not having an appeal right as to the transfer at all,” he said.
Marsha Levick, deputy director and chief counsel of the Juvenile Law Center in Pennsylvania, said the Connecticut decision “is just bad public policy.” Levick’s group, along with the National Center for Youth Law, submitted an amicus brief in the case supporting Michtom’s position.
Levick said other states are grappling with these same issues. She said Colorado and Pennsylvania allow juveniles awaiting transfer to adult court to still stay in juvenile detention centers, which she said is safer emotionally and physically for young offenders.