Chapter 3.5 Sentencing Considerations

​​​​​​Sentencing Considerations

As an initial matter, it should be noted that the use of the ICJ as a supervision transfer mechanism has no bearing of the discretion of a prosecutor to proceed against a juvenile as an adult. The ICJ does not prevent a prosecutor from exercising discretion under a juvenile code to proceed against a juvenile as an adult where the code unambiguously affords the prosecutor such discretion. E.g., Menapace v. State, 768 P.2d 8, 9 (Wyo. 1989)Consequently, the ICJ should be viewed as a supervision transfer mechanism, not as a tool that limits the prosecutor’s discretion or the sentencing authority of a judge, so long as that authority does not implicate interstate matters.

More than in the context of adult sentencing, the rehabilitative purposes of the juvenile justice system provide courts with wide discretion in fashioning dispositional outcomes.  E.g., In re Bracewell, 709 N.E.2d 938, 939-40 (Ohio Ct. App. 1998) (“Because the purpose of maintaining a juvenile court is different from that of the criminal justice system for adults, a juvenile court is given discretion to make any disposition ‘that the court finds proper.’ The proceedings are considered not criminal but civil in nature, and the dispositions ordered by the court are considered not punitive but rehabilitative.”); see Schall v. Martin, 467 U.S. 253, 263 (1984).  Because of the discretionary nature of the juvenile justice system, courts enjoy wide latitude in addressing juvenile issues, including the use of innovative sentencing, and heightened responsibility to meet dispositional directives. E.g., In re S.S., No. D–8041–01/04D, 2005 WL 502836, at *4800 N.Y.S.2d 356 (N.Y. Fam. Ct. 2005) (“It is incumbent upon the Court to ensure that the agency having custody after formulating a permanency plan must make reasonable efforts to effect that plan.”).  In fact, the failure of a court to “explore the possibility of a child’s return to Pennsylvania, (to the home of a grandmother with whom the child had previously lived before moving to Florida where he was adjudicated delinquent), under an interstate compact for juveniles,” was reversible error and inconsistent with Florida law which required a “new disposition,” consistent with the statutory obligation “[t]o provide an environment that fosters healthy social, emotional, intellectual, educational, and physical development; to ensure secure and safe custody; and to promote the health and well-being of all children under the state’s care.” D.V. v. State, 216 So.3d 3, 11 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2017)  

Consequently, the ICJ is generally applicable to all manner of dispositional outcomes (that is sentences) without regards to their classification.  The use of deferred adjudication, treatment options, custodial placements, and the like do not restrict the application of the ICJ.  ICJ Rule 1-101 specifically recognizes deferred adjudications as one form of adjudication that is covered by the ICJ.  It defines a deferred adjudication as “a decision made by a court that withholds or defers formal judgment and stipulates terms and/or conditions of supervision.” ICJ Rule 1-101 (Interstate Comm’n for Juveniles 2024).  As a result, the only differentiation between a deferred adjudication and a non-deferred adjudication for purposes of the ICJ is some requirement of supervision.  So long as some element of supervision is involved, the terms of the ICJ are triggered.  A court or executive authority cannot avoid the ICJ by simply classifying its disposition as “deferred.”

Additionally, because the ICJ also applies in the context of accused delinquents and accused status offenders, the use of deferred prosecutions does not exempt a state from complying with the ICJ.  In addition to the status of the individual as a juvenile, the essential element in triggering the ICJ is the element of supervision.  Consequently, an accused juvenile delinquent or accused status offender under some form of supervision would be subject to the ICJ for purposes of transferring supervision and returning an absconder.