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State ex rel T.D.W.

November 3, 2010


Appealed from the Second Judicial District Juvenile Court for the Parish of Claiborne, Louisiana Trial Court No. 6848-JD; 7036-JD Honorable Jenifer Ward Clason, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Drew, J.


The State of Louisiana appeals from a judgment quashing a petition for delinquency against a juvenile, T.D.W.*fn1 We reverse and remand.


On August 13, 2008, a young woman in Homer, Louisiana, was attacked by a female juvenile, T.D.W., born on January 8, 1993. T.D.W. used a knife to stab the victim in the face, causing the victim to lose her left eye.

On September 9, 2008, a Homer police officer executed a verified complaint*fn2 against her for the offense of aggravated second degree battery. She was taken into custody on Wednesday, September 17, 2008, and transported to Ware Youth Detention Center.

On Monday, September 22, 2008, the court held what can best be termed as a status conference, certainly not a continued custody hearing.*fn3

Subject to an in-chambers discussion, the juvenile was released to her grandmother, with whom she usually lived. The court expressed reluctance in continuing the juvenile in custody at the detention center, since the event had occurred five weeks prior to the hearing and there had been no further violent action by the juvenile.

The court stated:

In order to prevent any further violent actions by this juvenile, I'm going to release her to her grandmother. I'm going to order that she be on strict house arrest which means she can have no contact whatsoever with anybody her age. They can't come into the house to visit, period. I mean unless it's a family member. Apparently, there was some use of a cell phone.

She's prohibited from having a cell phone. Telephone privileges are taken away during this period of house arrest.

She's allowed to go to school. She's allowed to go to church. Those are the two places where she can go. If she goes anyplace else, she must be in the company of her grandmother. And, if these rules of the house arrest are broken, then she'll be picked up and put in a detention center until the whole matter is resolved. Everybody understands that.

No cell phones, no visitors. She's just at home. Can't go out except to school, to church and with - in the strict company of her grandmother. No contact with the victim or anybody in the victim's family, and that's the condition of her release back to her grandmother's home. (Our emphasis.)

The court allowed the prosecutor 30 days to file any petition and fixed November 7, 2008, as the date for answering the petition. However, neither a petition nor an answer was filed for about nine months.

On August 3, 2009, the District Attorney filed a petition*fn4 to take T.D.W. into custody and to have her adjudicated delinquent for the offense of aggravated second degree battery. There is no evidence that the trial court's order of house arrest was ever lifted.

Apparently T.D.W. filed an answer denying the petition on September 11, 2009, but that answer is not in the appellate record.

On September 30, 2009, the juvenile filed an application for a bill of particulars and a motion for discovery.

On October 8, 2009, the juvenile filed a motion for a continuance, urging that her motions had not yet been fully answered and that the matter was set for trial on October 9, 2009. The trial court granted that motion and reset the case for November 6, 2009.

On November 6, 2009, the juvenile filed a motion to dismiss the matter based on prescription, alleging that the state failed to file the petition 90 days since she made an appearance, resulting in the expiration of the time limitations set by La. Ch. C. art. 877(B). The state responded that La. Ch. C. art. 877 had no application to these facts; rather, it argued that La. Ch. C. art. 843 governed the time limit for filing the petition. The state further argued that because it never had custody of T.D.W., it had four years to file the petition under the Code of Criminal Procedure.

The state then filed a supplemental memo in opposition to her motion to dismiss. The state discovered that T.D.W. had, in fact, been arrested in September 2008. However, the state argued that once T.D.W. was released from the juvenile detention center, she was "released from detention" and that she was not "in continued custody" so as to implicate the 90-day deadline for filing the petition required by La. Ch. C. art. 843.

T.D.W. filed another motion for a continuance on December 7, 2009, citing newly discovered information, and the matter was continued to January 6, 2010. Subsequently, she filed a motion to dismiss her earlier motion to dismiss, relating that the previous motion had been based on erroneous facts.

She then filed a motion to quash on January 4, 2010, alleging that her rights had been violated under the Sixth Amendment to the United States Constitution and under the Louisiana Constitution, Art. I, § 16, in that the state had not timely brought her to trial, despite the continuing order for her house arrest.

A hearing was held on February 5, 2010, at which the trial court concluded that its continuing house arrest order was analogous to continuing the child in custody, and thus the state was dilatory in filing and proceeding with its petition. Accordingly, on May 6, 2010, the court signed a judgment, granting the motion to quash, ...

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