Since the recent events that occurred at Noblesville West Middle School on May 25th, many questions and concerns have been proposed. Adult court and juvenile court are the two focal points of discussions. We would like to address some of those questions and explain why the student has to be tried as a delinquent child given the specific facts of the case.
Adult Court vs. Juvenile Court
Adults and juveniles may go through similar processes with criminal procedures, but there are some distinct differences that should be noted. What exactly is a delinquent child? I.C. § 31-37-1-1 states that a child is a delinquent child if, before becoming eighteen (18) years of age, the child commits a delinquent act. The Noblesville West Middle School student meets these conditions according to their charges. After the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office filed a petition for delinquency, many wondered whether the student would be tried as an adult or juvenile.
The wording that describes procedures is the main difference between the two. For example, the first hearing in an adult case is called the initial hearing, whereas in a juvenile case, it is a delinquency hearing. Another example is the trial. Jury trials and bench trials refer to adult cases. A fact finding hearing is essentially a trial for juveniles.
Why Can’t the Student be Tried as an Adult?
Indiana’s Code lists specific instances in which a juvenile may be tried as an adult. Given that the student is thirteen (13) years old, there is one statute that qualifies the student to fall within the adult court realm. I.C. § 31-30-3-4 states that children twelve (12) years of age or older are eligible to be tried as an adult; however, this is only applicable if an act constituting murder has been committed. This statute cannot be applied to the Noblesville case because there are only charges of attempted murder.
Will Juvenile Laws be Amended?
After the Hamilton County Prosecutor informed the public that the student would not be tried as an adult, many wondered whether or not laws regarding juveniles should be changed. As a result, state legislators have looked over the state statute to determine what, or if, these laws should be amended.
This matter should be examined carefully. If legislators do go forward with making changes, this case of the Noblesville student will set a precedent for future cases involving juveniles. Facts differ from case to case, so this is something that must be considered when evaluating new legislation.