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State ex rel. C.P.G.

Court of Appeals of Louisiana, Second Circuit

August 27, 2019

STATE OF LOUISIANA IN THE INTEREST OF C.P.G.

          Appealed from the Fourth Judicial District Court for the Parish of Ouachita, Louisiana Trial Court No. 21, 940 Honorable Sharon I. Marchman, Judge.

          LAVALLE B. SALOMON Counsel for Appellant, C.P.G.

          JOHNNY L. SANDERS, II Assistant District Attorney Counsel for Appellee, State of Louisiana

          HEATHER S. COURTNEY Counsel for Appellee, Office of Juvenile Justice

          Before GARRETT, McCALLUM, and THOMPSON, JJ.

          GARRETT, J.

         The juvenile, CPG, entered an admission to the offense of negligent homicide and was adjudicated a delinquent. The trial court ordered him to serve five years in secure custody. CPG appealed, arguing that the disposition is excessive. For the following reasons, we vacate a stay previously granted in this matter and affirm the adjudication and disposition.

         FACTS

         On February 23, 2018, thirteen-year-old CPG claimed to have a sore throat and stayed at home with an older brother instead of going to school.[1]During the day, the brothers accessed various guns belonging to their stepfather and shot them out the back door of the house. That afternoon, 17-year-old AN was picked up from work by a friend, they purchased marijuana, and went to CPG's house to smoke it.[2] CPG's brother had a 9 mm gun and laid it on a table while he went outside to retrieve his dog. CPG picked up the gun, went outside, and sat in the backseat of a vehicle with AN. AN asked if the gun was real. CPG waved the gun around and pulled the trigger. AN was struck in the head with a bullet and died at the scene. CPG claimed that he did not know the gun was loaded.

         On March 19, 2018, a "Petition to Declare a Minor to be Delinquent" was filed against CPG, charging him with negligent homicide, a violation of La. R.S. 14:32.[3] Six additional petitions were also filed against CPG. He was charged with five counts of simple burglary, three counts of theft of a firearm, and one count of felony theft. These offenses arose from a series of vehicle burglaries in which firearms and other property were stolen.[4] CPG was arraigned on March 22, 2018, and was released on bond. He appeared in court on May 24, 2018, and a drug test was ordered. CPG tested positive for marijuana. His bond was revoked and he was placed in detention.

         On June 21, 2018, CPG appeared in court and entered an admission to negligent homicide.[5] He was advised of his rights, and was told that the maximum sentence for this offense was five years. He acknowledged that there was no agreed upon sentence. The trial court found that CPG knowingly, intelligently, and voluntarily entered the admission and found there was a factual basis for the admission. The trial court ordered a predisposition investigation ("PDI") report. The trial court also asked that CPG's mother and stepfather submit to drug screening. The stepfather's test was negative, but the mother tested positive for marijuana.

         On July 30, 2018, CPG appeared before the court and was ordered to serve five years in secure care, with credit for time served. CPG appealed the disposition, arguing that it is excessive. The Office of Juvenile Justice ("OJJ") also appealed, arguing that the trial court did not have the authority to order that CPG be placed in secure care. The OJJ asserted that only the Department of Public Safety and Corrections can determine the most appropriate placement, care, and treatment of the juvenile. The OJJ sought a stay of the secure care order pending the appeal.

         The trial court granted the appeal of both CPG and the OJJ, but denied the stay of the order of secure care. The OJJ filed a writ application to this court seeking a stay of the juvenile court's order to place CPG in secure care. On August 17, 2018, in 52, 476-JWC, this court granted the stay.

         The juvenile court ordered CPG and the OJJ to appear for a hearing pursuant to La.C.Cr.P. art. 914.1(C)(3), because they had both failed to pay the fees for obtaining transcripts for their appeals. A hearing was held in October 2018. At that time, both parties had paid the transcript fees. The transcript fees for both CPG and the OJJ were due on or before August 30, 2018. The check from the OJJ was received by the Ouachita Parish Clerk of Court's office on September 14, 2018. The check from CPG was received on September 24, 2018. Both parties offered explanations for the delays in the checks reaching the clerk of court's office. However, because the fees were not paid in a timely fashion, the trial court dismissed the appeals. Both CPG and OJJ filed notices of intent to apply for supervisory writs to this court. Only CPG actually filed a writ application. On February 22, 2019, in 52, 760-JWC, this court granted CPG's writ, reinstating the appeal. Because the OJJ did not apply for a writ from the dismissal of its appeal, the trial court judgment dismissing its appeal is final.[6]

         EXCESSIVE DISPOSITION

         CPG asserts that the disposition imposed is excessive. He maintains that the juvenile court did not comply with the sentencing guidelines of the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure and the Louisiana Children's Code by failing to adequately articulate for the record the factual basis for the imposition of the maximum sentence in this case. CPG also urges that the juvenile court failed to address and consider factors and circumstances in mitigation which would compel a lesser sentence than that imposed. These arguments are without merit.

         Legal Principles

         The Louisiana Children's Code provides the procedures and requirements for adjudicating juveniles as delinquents and determining their disposition after adjudication. All rights guaranteed to criminal defendants by the Constitution of the United States or the Constitution of Louisiana, except the right to jury trial, shall be applicable in juvenile court proceedings. See La. Ch. C. art. 808. A delinquency proceeding shall be commenced by a petition. La. Ch. C. art. 842.

         Regarding the answer to the petition, La. Ch. C. art. 855 provides, in part:

A. When the child appears to answer the petition, the court shall first determine that the child is capable of understanding statements about his rights under this Code.
B. If the child is capable, the court shall then advise the child of the following items in terms understandable to the child:
(1) The nature of this delinquency proceeding.
(2) The nature of the allegations of the petition.
(3) His right to an adjudication hearing.
(4) His right to be represented by an attorney, his right to have counsel appointed as provided in Article 809, and his right in certain circumstances authorized by Article 810 to waive counsel.
(5) His privilege against self-incrimination.
(6) The range of responses authorized under Article 856.
(7) The possible consequences of his admission that the allegations are true, including the maximum and minimal dispositions which the court may impose pursuant to Articles 897 through 900[.]
La. Ch. C. art. 856 provides, in pertinent part:
A. After the child has been advised pursuant to Article 855, the court shall inquire how the child ...

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