Juvenile Indigent Defense Delivery System
Wyoming provides counsel to indigent youth statewide through the Office of the State Public Defender, which represents juveniles in delinquency cases and on appeal. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-6-104. The state is responsible for 85% of the costs of indigent defense and counties pay the remaining 15%.
Wyoming has no statutorily required or recommended training requirements or standards for attorneys representing youth in delinquency proceedings.
Wyoming youth have a right to a trial by jury at the adjudicatory hearing. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-223(c).
In addition to statutes and case law, juvenile court proceedings are governed by court rules. These are often promulgated at the state level, but may also be passed at the local court level instead of or in addition to statewide rules. Wyoming’s juvenile court rules are the Rules of Procedure for Juvenile Courts.
Right to Counsel
Beyond the right to counsel in juvenile court guaranteed by the Due Process Clause of the United States Constitution and In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1 (1967), states often have state constitutional or statutory provisions further expanding upon on or delineating that right.
In Wyoming, youth in delinquency cases and children in need of supervision proceedings have the right to “counsel at every stage of the proceedings including appeal.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(a), Wyo. R. Proc. Juv. Ct. 5. At their first appearance before the court, the child and his parents, guardian, or custodian shall be advised of this right. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(a). In addition, an order setting an initial hearing must include notice of the right to counsel and must direct any party requesting court-appointed counsel to file a financial affidavit with the court at least five days before the hearing or risk sanctions. Wyo. R. Proc. Juv. Ct. 5(c).
If counsel is requested, and the family is unable to obtain counsel, the court shall appoint an attorney, who may be the guardian ad litem, to represent the child. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(b). In addition to appointing counsel when requested, “the court may appoint counsel for any party when necessary in the interest of justice.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14‑6‑222(c).
If no parent, guardian, or custodian appears on behalf of a child accused of delinquency, or if their interests are adverse to the best interests of the child, the court shall appoint a guardian ad litem for the child. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-216.
In Wyoming, the role of defense counsel in juvenile delinquency proceedings includes considering “among other things what is in the best interest of the child.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(d).
A child is specifically entitled to counsel at the following stages:
- Commencement of Detention Hearing. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-209;
- Initial Hearing. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-226(a);
- Transfer Hearing. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-237(a);
- Adjudication. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(a).
Determination of Indigence
Wyoming has no presumption of indigence in juvenile court proceedings. If the child, parents, guardian, or custodian request counsel, the court will require them to “verify their financial condition under oath, either by written affidavit” or by testimony before the court. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(b). They must “state they are without sufficient money, property, assets or credit to employ counsel in their own behalf.” Id.
Standards of indigence are set by the state public defender. When determining whether an unemancipated juvenile is indigent, the court will consider the parent or custodian’s ability to pay. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-6-106(c).
If the child requests counsel and the parents, guardian, or custodian are “able but unwilling to obtain counsel for the child, the court shall appoint counsel to represent the child and may direct reimbursement of counsel fees.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(b).
Waiver of Counsel
A juvenile in Wyoming may waive his or her right to counsel “if the Court finds that such waiver is made in accordance with Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-6-107.” Wyo. R. Proc. Juv. Ct. 5(d). Thus, a waiver must be “knowingly and voluntarily” made “with full awareness of his rights and of the consequences of a waiver.” Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 7-6-107. “Before making its findings, the court shall consider such factors as the person’s age, education, familiarity with the English language and the complexity of the crime involved.” Id. A person who waives his or her right to counsel has no right to standby counsel. Id.
When and how the court may decide to detain a child or otherwise place restrictions on the child’s freedom is defined by statute and court rules. In Wyoming, a detention hearing must occur within 48 hours of the child being detained, excluding weekends and legal holidays. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-209(a). Other provisions regarding the detention of juveniles can be found in Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 5-6-112, 7-1-107, 7-1-108, 14-4-117, 14-6-205 to -207, 14-6-210, and 14-6-214.
The U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court case law are also sources of due process rights beyond local and state statutes and provisions. NJDC’s Detention Page provides more information about detaining youth.
The legal needs of children in the delinquency system rarely end at disposition, and states vary in the way they provide a right to representation on these post-disposition issues. Wyoming statutes list one post-disposition proceeding at which youth have a right to counsel.
In Wyoming, youth have a right to counsel in the following post-disposition proceeding:
- Appeal. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-222(a).
NJDC’s Post-Disposition Page has more information on this topic from a national perspective.
Ages of Juvenile Court Jurisdiction
The age of a child who comes within the jurisdiction of the state’s juvenile courts is defined by state law. In Wyoming:
- No statute specifies the youngest age at which a juvenile can be adjudicated delinquent;
- Juvenile court has jurisdiction over offenses alleged to have been committed prior to a child’s 18th birthday; after age 18, the youth is charged in adult court, Wyo. Stat. Ann. §§ 14-1-101, 14-6-201;
- Juvenile court can retain jurisdiction over youth until age 21, provided that the offense alleged to have been committed occurred before the youth turned 18. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-231.
Youth in Adult Court
Despite the existence of juvenile courts, many youth are still tried as adults. Wyoming has two ways that juveniles can be prosecuted as adults:
- Discretionary Waiver: the court or any party can move to transfer any youth for any offense to adult court. Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-237.
- Prosecutorial Discretion:
- ANY alleged violation of any municipal ordinance and any misdemeanor may be filed directly in adult court, without regard to the child’s age.
- For children 14 and older for murder and certain other offenses, and
- For children 17 and older for any felony.
Wyo. Stat. Ann. § 14-6-203(f).
NJDC conducts statewide assessments of access to counsel and the quality of juvenile defense representation in delinquency proceedings around the country. These assessments provide a state with baseline information about the nature and efficacy of its juvenile indigent defense structures, highlight the strengths and weaknesses of the indigent juvenile defense system, and provide tailored recommendations that address each state’s distinctive characteristics to help decision-makers focus on key trouble spots and highlight best practices. The NJDC State Assessment Page provides more information about state assessments.
NJDC has not yet conducted an assessment of the juvenile indigent defense system in Wyoming. If you would like to collaborate with NJDC to fund-raise for, plan, or engage in an assessment in this state, please contact us.
Current through June 2015.