Delaware Case Law

RECENT JUVENILE CASE LAW

Expungement & Sex Offender Registration 

Fletcher v. State, No. 0404010688, 2008 WL 2912048 (Del. Fam. Ct. June 16, 2008)

Family Court held that the Delaware “Juvenile Expungement Statute gives the Family Court discretion to Order the expungement of all indicia and evidence of a sex offense on a juvenile record including the designation and registration as a sex offender on the Delaware Sex Offender Registry. This includes relieving the individual from any notification and reporting requirements that may relate thereto.”

Fuller v. State, 104 A.3d 817 (Del. 2014)

The Supreme Court, Strine, C.J., held that motor vehicle violations committed as an adult, under Title 21, were not “subsequent adult convictions” that presented bar to expungement of petitioner’s juvenile record, abrogating M.S. v. State, 2012 WL 6765557.

Arnold v. State, 49 A.3d 1180 (Del. 2012)

Petitioner sought expungement of his entire juvenile record of delinquency adjudications, after he had received a gubernatorial pardon of his adult conviction for misdemeanor terroristic threatening. The Family Court, New Castle County, denied petition. Petitioner appealed. The Supreme Court, Holland, J., held that petitioner was entitled to expungement of his entire juvenile record.

State v. E.A., 2010 WL 5692095, at *6 (Del. Fam. Ct. Feb. 4, 2010)

The Family Court held that it does not have the discretion to provide relief to juveniles adjudicated delinquent for a felony offense or to defer the assignment of a Risk Assessment Tier under 11 Del. C. § 4121(c).

Criminal Procedure

In re Andrew Simmons, Del. Fam., Cr. A. No. 1607013229, Millman, J. (Del. Fam. Ct. October 29, 2018)

Family Court held Youth Rehabilitative Services (YRS) in contempt for failure to provide probationary services to a youth who had reached his 19th birthday. The Court concluded that when the General Assembly passed 10 Del. C. § 928, which allowed Family Court to extend jurisdiction in certain cases to age 21, it authorized YRS to provide services to this population.

State v. Dennis Cooke, Del. Fam. Ct. Cr. A. No. 16-12-012722, Hitch, J. (April 25, 2017)

Family Court, in dismissing charges against Respondent, opined that the State cannot subvert Delaware Family Court Criminal Rule 10(c) requiring filing of a juvenile petition prior to arraignment.  The Court relied on the purpose of the Rule—“to inform the juvenile offender of what he is being charged with”—and noted that the mandatory requirement, by use of the word shall will “hold the State to the same expectations . . . includ[ing] following the Family Court Rules of Criminal Procedure.”

Miranda Warnings

State v. Berry, Del. Fam., Cr. A. No. 1607019766, Hitch, J. (January 25, 2017)

Pre- and Post- Miranda statements deemed inadmissible under mid-stream Miranda doctrine as initial statements were tainted by Officer’s Miranda violations.

GM v. State, 2017 Del. Fam. Ct. LEXIS  (Del. Fam. Ct. 2017)

When there are factual discrepancies that need to be resolved, a court must conduct a fact-finding hearing to rule on the Motion, as it “is impossible to appropriately determine whether the Defendant was advised of his Miranda, and if so, whether he validly waived those rights.”

Rambo v. State, 939 A.2d 1275 (Del. 2007)

Where there is any ambiguity about whether a juvenile defendant has herself waived her Miranda rights voluntarily and knowingly, the interrogation officer has an obligation to clarify the ambiguity on the record before continuing with the interview.

“A juvenile defendant’s confession must receive special scrutiny. The State bears the burden of proving the necessary voluntariness, understanding, and waiver of Miranda. The judicial inquiry into waiver has two distinct dimensions: (1) The relinquishment of the right must have been voluntary in the sense that it was the product of free and deliberate choice rather than intimidation coercion, or deception; and (2) The waiver must have been made with a full awareness of both the nature of the right being abandoned and the consequences of the decision to abandon it.” This second part requires a totality of the circumstance evaluation (age, experience, education, background, intelligence, and capacity to understand the rights being waived.)

Smith v. State, 918 A.2d 1144 (Del. Supr. Ct. 2007)

This Court has expressly rejected the so-called ‘interested adult’ rule—the contention that a juvenile cannot waive his rights without first being given the opportunity to consult with a parent or other interested adult. But, the lack of guidance from an interested adult certainly is a factor in the “totality of circumstances.” And, it is an important factor if, in addition, the juvenile suffers from diminished mental capacity. “

Reverse Amenability

State v. Ellington, Del. Super., Cr. A. No. 1701005777, Medinilla, J. (April 26, 2017).

The Court held that a 14 year old charged with murder, etc., would return to Family Court as the Court found that the interests of society and Defendant would be best served by transfer to the Family Court. “Placing a juvenile in adult prison, immersed with other adult offenders, and without the benefit of targeted rehabilitative services runs against the interests of society.” 

State v. Bailey, 2017 WL 838223 (Del. Super. Ct. Mar. 2, 2017), as corrected (Mar. 10, 2017)

The Superior Court denied Defendant’s motion for transfer to Family Court, as Possession of a Firearm During the Commission of a Felony (PFDCF) had exclusive jurisdiction in Superior Court. Defendant was a 15 year old with a minimal history in the juvenile system and a history of abuse, dependency, and neglect was charged as an adult with numerous violent felonies, including PFDCF. Ultimately, the Court found that that although amenable, the rationale for a transfer would meet resistance under existing YRS’s policies that focus on the pending adult firearm charges. Given the current state of the DSCYF/YRS structure, the charging decision of the State has the effect of automatically forcing the matter to remain in this Court. 

Defenses

State v. Wood, 931 A.2d 1008 (Del. Fam. Ct. 2007)

Infancy defense was not a valid defense in juvenile delinquency proceeding. Doctrine had been supplanted by creation of Family Court’s juvenile delinquency jurisdiction.