Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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The New Mexico Supreme Court addressed the circumstances under which detectives may question a juvenile defendant in the absence of and without notification of a court-appointed attorney or court-appointed guardian ad litem. Then-fifteen-year-old defendant Juan Rivas’ convictions arose from his killing of eighty-three-year-old Clara Alvarez as she slept in her bed. Evidence presented at trial included two statements Defendant had made to detectives. Based on the evidence presented, a jury convicted Defendant of first-degree murder, aggravated burglary, tampering with evidence, and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. Defendant was then sentenced to life imprisonment. Defendant appealed. Finding no reversible error as to the admission of either statement, the Supreme Court affirmed. View "New Mexico v. Rivas" on Justia Law

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DeAngelo M. (Child) was thirteen years and eight days old when, during a custodial interrogation by three law enforcement officers, he made inculpatory statements regarding a burglary, which connected him to a murder. Had Child made his statements nine days earlier, his statements would not have been admissible against him in any delinquency proceedings. Had Child been fifteen years old at the time of his statement, his statement would have been admissible if the prosecution proved by a preponderance that Child’s statement was elicited after waiver of his constitutional and statutory rights. However, because Child was thirteen years old and his statement was given to a person in a position of authority, there was a rebuttable presumption that his statement was inadmissable. The Court of Appeals held that to rebut the presumption, the prosecution had to prove by clear and convincing evidence, through expert testimony, that “Child had the maturity and intelligence of an average fifteen-year-old child to understand his situation and the rights he possessed.” The Court of Appeals reversed the district court’s denial of the motion to suppress because the prosecution did not meet this burden and remanded for a new trial. The State appealed. After review, the Supreme Court held that Section 32A-2-14(F) required the State to prove by clear and convincing evidence that at the time a thirteen- or fourteen-year-old child makes a statement, confession, or admission to a person in a position of authority, the child: (1) was warned of his constitutional and statutory rights; and (2) knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived each right. To prove the second element, the recording of the custodial interrogation which resulted in the statement, confession, or admission must prove clearly and convincingly that the child’s answer to open-ended questions demonstrated that the thirteen- or fourteen-year-old child had the maturity to understand each of his or her constitutional and statutory rights and the force of will to insist on exercising those rights. Expert testimony may assist the fact-finder in understanding the evidence or determining the facts, but it is not essential. The Supreme Court concluded that the evidence in this case did not prove that Child knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily waived each right. Therefore, his statement should have been suppressed. View "New Mexico v. DeAngelo M." on Justia Law

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Antonio T., a seventeen-year-old high school student, was taken to the principal's office because he was suspected of being under the influence of alcohol. The assistant principal questioned Antonio about his possession of alcohol in the presence of a deputy sheriff. Antonio admitted that he had brought alcohol to school, where he drank it. At the principal's request, the deputy administered a breath alcohol test to Antonio, which was positive for alcohol. After administering the test, the deputy advised Antonio of his right to remain silent, and Antonio declined to answer the questions. Antonio was charged with the delinquent act of possession of alcohol by a minor. He filed a motion to suppress the statements he made to the assistant principal because his statements were elicited without a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his right to remain silent. The district court denied his motion, which was affirmed by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court reversed both the district court and the Court of Appeals: although a school official may insist that a child answer questions for purposes of school disciplinary proceedings, any statements elicited by the official may not be used against the child in a delinquency proceeding unless the child made a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary waiver of his or her right to remain silent. Because the State failed to prove that Antonio effectively waived this right, his statements were inadmissible in the delinquency proceeding. View "New Mexico v. Antonio T." on Justia Law

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Police officers were dispatched in response to reports of an armed subject pointing a rifle at several people from the window of a light beige or tan vehicle. After Defendant Leticia T. (Child) and children passengers were removed and detained, the officers conducted a warrantless search of the interior and trunk of the vehicle. The district court held that the warrantless search was justified by exigent circumstances. The Court of Appeals reversed the district court, ruling that the possibility of a person hiding in the trunk of a vehicle did not constitute exigency. The issue on appeal to the Supreme Court centered on the Court of Appeals' reversal. The Supreme Court conclude after a review of the district court record was that when police officers have probable cause and exigent circumstances to believe that an armed subject pointed a rifle at other individuals from a vehicle, officers may search the cab and the trunk of that same vehicle for the rifle. View "New Mexico v. Leticia T." on Justia Law

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Sixteen-year-old Defendant Oden Gutierrez confessed to shooting and killing Thomas Powell in Powell's home and stealing his car. Defendant was charged by criminal information with an open charge of murder, aggravated burglary, armed robbery for stealing a car while armed with a deadly weapon, and unlawful taking of a motor vehicle. A jury found him guilty on all counts and he was sentenced to life in prison plus nineteen and one-half years. Defendant appealed his sentence. He raised several issues which fell into four categories: (1) the suppression of evidence pertaining to his confession; (2) change of venue due to prejudicial pre-trial publicity; (3) a double jeopardy violation for his convictions of both armed robbery and the unlawful taking of a motor vehicle; and (4) an unlawful sentence based on constitutional grounds, mainly that a life sentence was cruel and unusual punishment for a youthful offender. Upon careful consideration of Defendant's arguments, the trial record, and the applicable legal authority, the Supreme Court reversed Defendant's sentence and remanded the case for re-sentencing with instructions that a pre-sentence report be prepared. The Court also vacated Defendant's conviction for unlawful taking of a motor vehicle because it violated the proscription against double jeopardy in this case. The Court affirmed the district court on all other issues. View "New Mexico v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law