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State ex rel. S.K.A. v. State

Court of Appeals of Utah

January 20, 2017

State of Utah, in the interest of S.K.A, a person under eighteen years of age.
v.
State of Utah, Appellee. S.K.A., Appellant,

         Third District Juvenile Court, West Jordan Department The Honorable Elizabeth A. Lindsley No. 1032415

          Monica Maio and David L. Johnson, Attorneys for Appellant.

          Sean D. Reyes and Jeffrey S. Gray, Attorneys for Appellee.

          JUDGE MICHELE M. CHRISTIANSEN authored this Memorandum Decision, in which JUDGES STEPHEN L. ROTH and JILL M. POHLMAN concurred.

          MEMORANDUM DECISION

          CHRISTIANSEN, Judge.

         ¶1 S.K.A. appeals the juvenile court's dispositional order, which included suspended jail time. We affirm.

         ¶2 In April 2015, when S.K.A. was seventeen years old, the State filed a delinquency petition in the juvenile court alleging that S.K.A. had committed assault, an offense that would be a class B misdemeanor if committed by an adult. See Utah Code Ann. § 76-5-102(1), (2) (LexisNexis 2012). The State later alleged that S.K.A. was in contempt of court for failing to appear at a hearing related to the assault, and the juvenile court issued a warrant for S.K.A.'s detention.

         ¶3 At a pretrial hearing held in October 2015, after S.K.A. had turned eighteen, he admitted to the assault, and the court dismissed the contempt allegation. At the hearing, a Utah Division of Child and Family Services (DCFS) representative remarked that given S.K.A.'s age, history, and nature, S.K.A. "would probably be best served through [DCFS's] aftercare" program "rather than [by] . . . remaining in [DCFS] custody." S.K.A.'s probation officer remarked that S.K.A. "was gone [from his home placement] for two to three months" and that he "[c]learly . . . does not want to be in State custody anymore." She expressed concern that "keeping him in custody is just going to maybe make him run some more or just fly under the radar." She further observed that S.K.A. "owe[d] a lot of community service hours" and asked "that those be converted to a fine, and a fine on [the assault offense] as well as restitution to be taken under advisement." The guardian ad litem stated that S.K.A. "want[ed] to be released from DCFS's custody" and that he was "not interested in any of the support that being in state custody can offer him." Finally, S.K.A.'s attorney commented that S.K.A. "really isn't interested in any help from DCFS. He would like to be terminated. His plan is to return to his father's home, if the Court, indeed, terminates DCFS custody." S.K.A.'s attorney further stated, "We don't believe-because this allegation happened when [S.K.A.] was under the age of 18, we don't believe the court has the authority . . . to order jail as a dispositional sentence."

         ¶4 The juvenile court ultimately released S.K.A. from DCFS custody; converted S.K.A.'s ninety-nine remaining community service hours into a $495 fine; fined S.K.A. an additional $325 for the assault; and sentenced S.K.A. to ten days in the Salt Lake County Jail, "suspended upon compliance with court orders." S.K.A. appeals.

         ¶5 S.K.A. contends that the juvenile court "erred in concluding that the Salt Lake County Jail constitutes an 'alternative to detention' under Utah Code section 78A-6-117(2)(f)." "Whether a juvenile court properly interpreted a statute presents a question of law that we review for correctness." In re O.P., 2016 UT App 181, ¶ 5, 380 P.3d 69 (citation and internal quotation marks omitted).

         ¶6 Utah Code section 78A-6-117 states, in relevant part: "The court may commit a minor to a place of detention or an alternative to detention for a period not to exceed 30 days subject to the court retaining continuing jurisdiction over the minor. This commitment may be stayed or suspended upon conditions ordered by the court."[1] Utah Code Ann. § 78A-6-117(2)(f)(i) (LexisNexis 2012). Thus, pursuant to section 78A-6-117, the juvenile court was permitted to commit S.K.A. to either "a place of detention or an alternative to detention." See id.

         ¶7 The question, then, is whether adult jail constitutes either "a place of detention or an alternative to detention." See id. This court recently resolved this exact question in In re O.P., 2016 UT App 181.

         ¶8 In that case, we concluded that under the relevant statutory provisions, an adult jail cannot be considered "a place of detention":

The Juvenile Court Act defines detention, in part, as "secure detention as defined in Section 62A-7-101 for the temporary care of a minor who requires secure custody in a physically restricting facility." "Secure detention, " as defined by section 62A-7-101, requires "a facility operated by or under contract with the division [of Juvenile ...

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