The Pa. Superior Court recently reversed and vacated the adjudication of the juvenile, J.C., for Corruption of Minors (COM), holding that where a crime under the law of this Commonwealth requires the perpetrator be an adult, such an offense cannot be deemed a delinquent act within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
J.C. was petitioned into juvenile court after a classmate, A.A., alleged that J.C. had “touched her in inappropriate and unwanted ways” on a school bus. J.C. was 15 years old at the time he committed the alleged offense.
School Administration personnel investigated the allegations as a potential violation of school conduct. During this investigation, J.C. gave a written statement admitting to the alleged acts but that the acts were consensual. School Administrators concluded that a possible crime had been committed and they contacted the school’s resource officer to report the alleged incident.
The Monroe County District Attorney’s Office subsequently filed a petition in juvenile court alleging that J.C. had committed the delinquent acts of aggravated indecent assault without consent, indecent assault without consent of other, and open lewdness.
J.C. ultimately executed a written “admission colloquy form,” admitting to COM, a first-degree misdemeanor. In exchange for J.C.’s admission, the Commonwealth agreed to nolle prosse all other charges. The Juvenile Court thereafter conducted an oral colloquy, accepted J.C.’s admission, and ordered J.C. to serve one year of probation.
J.C. filed a post-dispositional motion objecting to the Sexual Offender Evaluation he was ordered to complete, the DNA sample he was required to produce, and alleging a Brady violation due to the failure to preserve the school bus surveillance video. J.C.’s motion was denied, and he appealed to the Superior Court. However, before reaching the multitude of issues raised on appeal by J.C., the Superior sua sponte addressed the one issue that J.C. did not raise: Whether the offense for which he was adjudicated delinquent was a delinquent act within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.
The Superior Court first noted that the legislature has created a separate legal system for the adjudication of juvenile offenders. In order to adjudicate a child delinquent, the juvenile court must (1) determine that the juvenile has committed a delinquent act and (2) determine that the juvenile requires treatment, supervision, or rehabilitation. A delinquent act is “an act designated a crime under the law of this Commonwealth.”
Here, J.C. entered an admission to COM, “an act designated a crime under the laws of this Commonwealth.” However, to sustain a misdemeanor conviction for COM, the Commonwealth must prove that the actor was “the age of 18 years and upwards.” As noted by the Superior Court, “by its plain language, [the statute] seeks to prevent prohibited actions between minors and individuals 18 years or older, otherwise defined as an adult.”
So, because J.C. was 15 years old at the time he committed the alleged offense, he was incapable of committing the acts ascribed to him— namely, being of the age of 18 years and upwards. As such, the court exceeded its jurisdictional authority in adjudicating him delinquent..
Dispositional order vacated. Adjudication of delinquency reversed. Appellant discharged. Jurisdiction relinquished but … the Superior Court left open the issue of “whether J.C. can be subject to further action in the Juvenile Court or if this was the functional equivalent of a guilty plea.” (Discuss amongst yourselves ….)