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In the Interest of J.L.W.

April 24, 2013


Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Carroll County, James McGlynn, District Associate Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Mullins, J.

A juvenile appeals the juvenile court's order adjudicating him delinquent. AFFIRMED.

Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

This appeals arises from the juvenile court's order adjudicating J.L.W., a minor, delinquent after finding he committed the offense of forgery, in violation of Iowa Code section 715A.2(1)(b) (2011). In his appeal, J.L.W. argues the court erred by (1) finding sufficient evidence of his intent to defraud, (2) changing the burden of proof in a nunc pro tunc order, and (3) placing him in the custody of the juvenile court services for placement in a day treatment program. We affirm the juvenile court's orders.


The facts of the case are largely undisputed. J.L.W. drove his friend, B.H., to see B.H.'s girlfriend. While there, B.H. had his girlfriend fill out a blank check B.H. had taken from his grandmother. The girlfriend made the check payable to B.H. in the amount of $300 and then signed B.H.'s grandmother's name. J.L.W. then drove B.H. to J.L.W.'s bank. Because B.H. did not have a bank account, B.H. signed the check over to J.L.W., who then cashed the check in the drive-through of his bank. The money was used to put gas in J.L.W.'s truck and B.H.'s four-wheeler, and to finance a trip to Grimes and Des Moines later that day. B.H.'s grandmother's checkbook was later found in the glove compartment of J.L.W.'s truck.

At the adjudicatory hearing, B.H. and J.L.W. testified that J.L.W. did not know the check had been stolen and forged. B.H.'s girlfriend testified J.L.W. was outside of the truck on his cell phone when she wrote out the check while she was standing next to the passenger seat of J.L.W.'s vehicle. B.H. testified J.L.W. stayed in the truck, and B.H. got out of the vehicle to have his girlfriend write out the check in the yard of the house. Officer March also testified at the hearing concerning her investigation, the statements taken from the juveniles, and the video recording from the bank drive-through.

The juvenile court found J.L.W. participated in the forgery by "clear and convincing evidence," adjudicating J.L.W. delinquent. Prior to the disposition hearing, the court issued a nunc pro tunc order stating it intended to say in the order that it found guilt "beyond a reasonable doubt" rather than by clear and convincing evidence. The court thereby amended and corrected its prior order to show it adjudicated J.L.W. based on the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard. At the dispositional hearing, the court again confirmed the correct burden of proof and found placement in either of J.L.W.'s parents' homes was not viable a option. It also determined placement in the high impact residential program was not the least restrictive disposition. It therefore ordered J.W.L. to participate in the day treatment program, but because of the distance to the facility, the court ordered custody of J.L.W. to be placed in the juvenile court services for placement in a shelter or foster care location near the day treatment program. The court also ordered the case to be automatically dismissed when J.L.W. turned eighteen, which occurred approximately three months after the dispositional hearing. From this order, J.L.W. appeals.


The State argues for the adoption of a new standard of review, similar to the standard used in adult criminal proceedings. This request has recently been addressed and rejected by our supreme court in In re A.K., 825 N.W.2d 46, 52 (Iowa 2013). We continue to review delinquency proceedings de novo. In re C.L.C, Jr., 798 N.W.2d 329, 334--35 (Iowa Ct. App. 2011). "We give weight to the factual findings of the juvenile court, especially regarding the credibility of witnesses, but we are not bound by them." A.K., 825 N.W.2d at 49. The child is presumed innocent, and the State has the burden of proving the juvenile committed the delinquent act beyond a reasonable doubt. Id.


J.L.W. first challenges the sufficiency of the evidence with respect to his intent to defraud, an element of forgery under Iowa Code section 715A.2. See State v. Calhoun, 559 N.W.2d 4, 6 (Iowa 1997) (listing the elements of forgery as, "the defendant: (1) made, completed, executed, or transferred a writing purporting to be the act of another who did not authorize the act, and (2) with the specific intent to defraud or injure another person or financial institution or knew his act would facilitate a fraud or financial injury").

At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing, the court found on the record:

I just, [J.L.W.], I cannot comprehend how-I just can't see any way that you weren't involved with this. You might want to put a spin on it, but here you are, you provided the wheels to get to [B.H.'s girlfriend] to get that check filled out, you provide the endorsement on the check so that it gets cashed, and then the checkbook ends up in your glove box and you enjoy the fruits of the theft, gas in your car, a night down in Des Moines and to compare a check of $300 to the occasional $5 and $10 that grandma might have given to [B.H.], this is more and so different that all the time you're driving across town ...

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