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In re R.V.

Court of Appeal of Iowa

July 24, 2013

IN THE INTEREST OF R. V., A Child, R.V., Minor Child, Appellant.

Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Polk County, Rachael E. Seymour, District Associate Judge.

R.V. appeals the juvenile court's adjudication of delinquency and denial of a consent decree.

Jane M. White of Jane M. White Law Office, Des Moines, for appellant child.

Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, Bruce Kempkes, Assistant Attorney General, John Sarcone, County Attorney, and Christina Gonzales, Assistant County Attorney, for appellee State.

Considered by Vogel, P.J., and Vaitheswaran and Bower, JJ.


I. Factual and Procedural Background

On October 5, 2012, R.V. was charged by two separate delinquency petitions alleging assault, disorderly conduct, and theft in the fifth degree. On December 13, 2012, R.V. pleaded guilty to one count of theft and one count of simple assault, both simple misdemeanors, pursuant to a plea agreement whereby the State agreed to dismiss the disorderly conduct charge and join in R.V.'s request for a consent decree. R.V. waived time and notice for disposition, and the matter proceeded to disposition. The State, through the assistant county attorney, as well as the juvenile court officer, recommended a consent decree, asserting it was appropriate in this case. In support of this request, the State offered into evidence the predispositional report prepared by the juvenile court officer. Notwithstanding this request, the juvenile court denied the entry of a consent decree and entered a combined delinquency adjudication and disposition order granting probation.

R.V. is seventeen years old, and this was her first formal referral to juvenile court. Two years prior to this proceeding, R.V. was adjudicated a child in need of assistance (CINA) because her parents were selling drugs out of their home. After numerous services were provided to her parents the CINA case closed, and R.V. remained in her father's custody. Due to discord in this family, R.V. has had difficulty attending school. Specifically, she had extremely poor attendance prior to being placed in an alternative program and was in fact placed in this program so she could recover credits previously missed.

R.V. also failed to attend a court date in the delinquency proceedings on October 26, 2012. That morning, R.V. called her juvenile court officer to inform him she could not attend court. The juvenile court issued a warrant, and R.V. self-reported to Meyer Hall. She was released into her father's custody the next day. During the disposition hearing R.V.'s father stated she was gone two days prior to the hearing, and did not return the morning of the hearing for him to transport her to court.

R.V. has remained in compliance with all conditions in her pre-trial order. She has kept in contact with her probation officer, complied with the rules at home and school with no other referrals for delinquent behavior, and provided clean drug screens. In determining whether to issue a consent decree, the court did not mention R.V's compliance but noted R.V. has not had prior referrals to the juvenile court and has improved her attendance at school since being placed in an alternative program. However, the court based its decision to deny the consent decree on the fact R.V. has continued to miss school,

but more obvious is the fact that she has failed to attend a court proceeding and this court had to issue a warrant for her arrest. The information to this court at the time that I issued that warrant and what has been told to this court again is that [R.V.] got into a fight with her father, she left the father's home, she was not home where she was supposed to be, and then she subsequently not only missed school, but she missed a court appearance. You don't skip court and then get a consent decree . . . . This court certainly understands, [R.V.], that you have issues that you've dealt with that other kids don't have to. I don't care. I ordered you to be at court, and that's what I expected you to do. And if it was important for you to not have these matters on your juvenile court record, you would have found a way to get here . . . . The court does not grant you a consent decree for that reason.
Additionally, when entering the probation order, the court noted it certainly would be happy to expunge your record if you can, in fact, demonstrate that these matters shouldn't remain on your record. You have to stay out of trouble for a period of two years from when the court closes your case, and then you can come back, ask your records be sealed, and if you haven't got into any further trouble, I would be happy to do that.

R.V. now appeals this adjudication of delinquency, claiming the juvenile court abused its discretion in not granting a consent decree under the unique facts of this case. Additionally, R.V. maintains the court went beyond the authority granted to it by Iowa Code section 232.46(3) (2011). R.V. argues that, because the county attorney did not object to the consent decree, under the plain language of the statute the court did not have discretion to deny her request. To interpret the statute to require the juvenile to bring in substantial evidence to support her request for a consent decree, even when it is uncontested, creates an unreasonable ...

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