October 01, 2012

Juvenile Court Could Notify University of Student’s Juvenile Record

The views expressed herein have not been approved by the House of Delegates or the Board of Governors of the American Bar Association, and accordingly, should not be construed as representing the policy of the American Bar Association.

In re S.D., 2012 WL 3832679 (Pa. Super. Ct.).

In case involving youth who was adjudicated delinquent for a sex offense and placed on probation, court properly required notifying university of his offense and disposition. Statute did not define ‘school’ but goal of law was in part community safety and no evidence showed that youth was any less a risk to university students than high school students.

After receiving a tip that someone was emailing child pornography, a Pennsylvania trooper obtained a warrant to search a youth’s home. The trooper seized computers and recovered hundreds of images and videos containing child pornography. After speaking with the youth and his parents, the youth confessed that he had been sending the files.

The youth pled to delinquency adjudication on one count of sexual abuse of children. At the hearing, he had graduated high school and was about to begin college. The juvenile court placed the youth on probation and ordered the probation department to notify his university of his juvenile record.

The youth appealed the notification portion of the dispositional order.

The Pennsylvania Superior Court affirmed. The court noted that the Pennsylvania Juvenile Act provides broad discretion to juvenile courts to craft dispositions to help rehabilitate youth and protect the community. Section 6341(b.1) of the Act requires a court to notify the youth’s “school” of delinquent acts they have committed, a brief description of the incidents, and the disposition of the case.

The youth argued on appeal that the word ‘school’ does not include colleges and universities.

The court explained that the Act did not define school, but common dictionary definitions include colleges and universities. Further, the legislative intent of the Juvenile Act is two-fold—to protect the community and to enable youth to become productive members of the community.

The court explained that it would be counterintuitive to hold that the legislature meant to protect other youth in high school from the potential risks of adjudicated delinquents but not students in higher education.

Based on the above, the Pennsylvania Superior Court held that the juvenile court did not exceed its authority in ordering the probation department to notify the youth’s university.