Superior Court County: King. Superior Court Cause No: 94-1-01042-1. Date filed in Superior Court: 6-2-94. Superior Court Judge Signing: Donald D. Haley.
Written by: Walter E. Webster, J. Concurred by: H. Joseph Coleman, J., Mary K. Becker, J.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Webster
WEBSTER, J. -- Antoinette Anderson misrepresented to arresting officers that she was an adult and did not reveal that she was actually a juvenile until the first day of her trial in superior court. At issue is whether Anderson waived her right to be tried as a juvenile. We hold that there was no waiver as a matter of law because she asserted the right before the jury was sworn in. Nor has there been a finding of waiver as a matter of fact. Accordingly, we affirm the trial court's order declaring the guilty verdict null and void and remand the case to the superior court for a Dillenburg *fn1 hearing to determine whether juvenile court jurisdiction would have been appropriate.
Anderson was arrested for delivering cocaine to an undercover officer in a buy/bust operation. She told the arresting officer that her birthday is January 26, 1976, which would make her 18 years old at the time. Accordingly, she was arraigned and brought to trial as an adult. During voir dire, Anderson asserted for the first time that she was a minor, her actual birthday being January 26, 1977. The trial Judge allowed the trial to continue because there were two co-defendants and because Anderson had no proof of her age. The court stated that the trial could be discontinued as to Anderson at any time there was proof of her age and appropriate argument. At the trial's Conclusion, the jury entered a verdict of guilty against Anderson.
The court then heard Anderson's motion to vacate the guilty verdict and transfer the case to juvenile court. After considering Anderson's birth certificate and other documentation, the court found by a preponderance of the evidence that Anderson was a juvenile at the time of the incident and the trial.
The trial court determined that a juvenile court declination hearing should have been held before trying Anderson as an adult and that Anderson did not waive her right to such a hearing by raising the issue during trial. The court declared the verdict to be null and void and transferred the case to juvenile court for a declination hearing. The State appeals, contending that Anderson waived the right to be treated as a juvenile.
Juvenile Court Jurisdiction
Juvenile court is a division of the superior court. RCW 13.04.021. By statute, it has "exclusive original jurisdiction" over all proceedings relating to individuals under the age of 18 alleged to have committed certain offenses, with some exceptions. RCW 13.04.030. The juvenile court can "transfer" its jurisdiction to the criminal division of the superior court pursuant to RCW 13.40.110. That statute requires a "declination" hearing to determine whether declination of juvenile court jurisdiction would be in the best interest of the juvenile or the public. Without such a hearing, the adult criminal division lacks jurisdiction over juveniles. State v. Werner, 129 Wash. 2d 485, 494, 918 P.2d 916, 921 (1996).
The right to be heard in juvenile court is statutory, rather than constitutional. See State v. Sandomingo, 39 Wash. App. 709, 711, 695 P.2d 592 (1985) (no constitutional right to be tried as a juvenile). Our state constitution grants original jurisdiction to the superior court "in all criminal cases amounting to felony, and in all cases of misdemeanor otherwise provided for by law." Const. art. IV, sec. 6. Juvenile courts are not separate courts and do not detract from the superior court's general jurisdiction. Rather, the superior courts retain jurisdiction over all criminal cases and juvenile court statutes provide procedures limiting the manner in which the superior courts handle its juvenile cases. Dillenburg v. Maxwell, 70 Wash. 2d 331, 351-53, 413 P.2d 940, 422 P.2d 783 (1966), cert. denied, 386 U.S. 998, 87 S. Ct. 1320, 18 L. Ed. 2d 348 (1967); see also Werner, 129 Wash. 2d at 492-93, 918 P.2d 916. Thus, the superior court has subject-matter jurisdiction over defendants under the constitution as well as personal jurisdiction over criminals pursuant to RCW 9A.04.030(1), but only the juvenile division of the superior court has the power to hear cases against juveniles. Werner, 129 Wash. 2d at 493-94 (clarifying juvenile court jurisdiction under Washington law).
Because Anderson was a juvenile at the time of her trial and the juvenile court did not conduct a declination hearing, the adult criminal division did not have statutory jurisdiction to hear her case. The State contends, however, that Anderson waived her right to challenge the superior court's jurisdiction.
The State contends that Anderson waived her right to challenge the superior court's jurisdiction by misrepresenting herself as an adult to the arresting officer and not asserting otherwise at her arraignment. Anderson argues she did not waive the right ...