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In re Weaver

December 13, 1996

IN RE THE PERSONAL RESTRAINT PETITION OF JEROMY WEAVER, PETITIONER.


Date first document (petition, etc) was filed in Court of Appeals: 06/12/96. Appeal from Superior Court of Pierce County.

Authored by J. Dean Morgan. Concurring: Karen G. Seinfeld, Visiting Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Morgan

MORGAN, J. -- In 1992, at age 14, Jeromy Weaver was charged in juvenile court with two counts of first degree child rape. *fn1 He successfully pled not guilty by reason of insanity. *fn2 Relying on RCW 10.77, the juvenile court ordered that he "be hospitalized or placed in appropriate alternative treatment less restrictive than detention in a state mental hospital;" that the secretary of the Department of Social and Health Services (DSHS) "provide adequate in[-]custody care and individualized treatment . . . at one or several of the state institutions or facilities under his or her direction and control wherein persons committed as criminally insane may be confined;" and that Weaver "remain in the control and custody of . . . for a period not to exceed [his] 21st birthday." *fn3

When Weaver turned 18, DSHS transferred him from its Child Study and Treatment Center, where he had been housed, to Western State Hospital's ward for adult mentally ill offenders. Weaver then filed this personal restraint petition, in which he argues that he was not subject to commitment under RCW 10.77. *fn4 We agree and grant his petition.

Preliminarily, we are concerned only with a juvenile court's authority to commit someone who has successfully pled not guilty by reason of insanity. We are not concerned with pre-adjudication procedures employed to determine competency to stand trial. Thus, we have no occasion to consider Division One's recent ruling in In re E.C. *fn5

RCW 10.77 frequently authorizes commitment after a defendant has been acquitted of a felony by reason of insanity. RCW 10.77.110 states in part:

(1) If a defendant is acquitted of a felony by reason of insanity, and it is found that he or she is not a substantial danger to other persons, and does not present a substantial likelihood of committing felonious acts jeopardizing public safety or security, unless kept under further control by the court or other persons or institutions, the court shall direct the defendant's final discharge. If it is found that such defendant is a substantial danger to other persons, or presents a substantial likelihood of committing felonious acts jeopardizing public safety or security, unless kept under further control by the court or other persons or institutions, the court shall order his or her hospitalization, or any appropriate alternative treatment less restrictive than detention in a state mental hospital, pursuant to the terms of this chapter.

RCW 10.77 does not authorize commitment after a defendant has been acquitted by reason of insanity of a crime that is not a felony. RCW 10.77.110(3) provides in part:

If the defendant is acquitted by reason of insanity of a crime which is not a felony, the court shall order the defendant's release or order the defendant's continued custody only for a reasonable time to allow the county-designated mental-health professional to evaluate the individual and to proceed with civil commitment pursuant to chapter 71.05 RCW, if considered appropriate.

A juvenile offense is not a felony. According to RCW 13.04.240, "an order of court adjudging a child delinquent or dependent under the provisions of [RCW 13.04] shall in no case be deemed a conviction of crime." According to RCW 13.40.020(19), a juvenile "offense" is "an act designated a violation or a crime if committed by an adult . . . ."

According to RCW 13.40.020(15) and RCW 13.40.020(1), respectively, a juvenile "offender" is "any juvenile who has been found by the juvenile court to have committed an offense . . .," and a "serious" juvenile offender is "a person fifteen years of age or older who has committed an offense which if committed by an adult would be . . . [a] class A felony .

The Supreme Court recognized the effect of these statutes in In re Frederick. *fn7 There, a juvenile was convicted in juvenile court of second degree burglary. Later, he ran from his probation officer, and the State charged him with first degree escape. To prevail on that charge, the State had to show that the juvenile fled while being detained pursuant to a conviction for a felony. The question, then, was whether a juvenile court conviction for second degree burglary constituted a conviction for a felony. The answer, according to the Supreme Court, was no; "a juvenile has not committed a crime, including a felony, when he has committed an offense, 'an act designated as a crime if committed by an adult.'" *fn8

Accordingly, we conclude that RCW 10.77 does not govern a post-acquittal commitment for insanity in a non-felony case; that a juvenile offense is not a felony; and that RCW 10.77 did not authorize Weaver's commitment in this case.

As Weaver points out, a contrary Conclusion would be nonsensical. A juvenile has no right to a jury trial on the question of commitment in the first instance. *fn9 If RCW 10.77 were to apply to juveniles, a juvenile would have a right to jury trial on the question of final discharge from a post-acquittal insanity commitment. *fn10 This is an absurd result, and one ...


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