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Juvenile had sufficient notice at hearing to lift stay of sentence

State v. D. T., 2015AP1476, 3/1/2016, District 1 (one-judge opinion; ineligible for publication); case activity

D.T. asserts he was ambushed when the juvenile court took judicial notice of his file and sua sponte called a witness before lifting the stay of his five-year sentence; the court of appeals affirms after finding different grounds to lift the stay.

D.T. was found delinquent for an armed robbery. (¶¶3-4). The court ordered him placed at Lincoln Hills for five years but stayed this disposition and put him on probation. (¶4). Conditions included that he “[c]ommit no new law violations arising to the level of probable cause.” (¶4).

D.T. had some trouble on probation, resulting in two different sanctions hearings, and also prompting the state to file a motion, later withdrawn for unspecified reasons, to lift the stay of sentence. (¶¶4-5). The state then filed another motion to lift the stay, alleging D.T. violated his conditions by being charged with two felony counts of operating a motor vehicle without owner consent. (¶6). At a hearing on this motion, the juvenile court lifted the stay not because of the new charges but because of the violations detailed in the court file and the testimony of D.T.’s supervising officer, who the court called to testify. (¶7).

D.T. argues on appeal that he did not receive adequate due-process notice of the the issues at his hearing because the grounds found by the trial court were not those alleged by the state. The court of appeals, however, notes that it is required to sustain the discretionary decision to lift the stay if the record contains reasons supporting it. (¶10). It thus declines to say whether the file review and witness examination were proper, and instead holds the felony charges by themselves justified lifting the stay:

This court’s reading of the relevant statutes suggests that the trial court need not have taken judicial notice of its file nor called a witness to support such a finding. This is because the motion to lift the stay noted that D.T. had been charged with two new felonies in adult court, and the motion attached a copy of the criminal complaint in which D.T. admitted to his involvement. At the motion hearing, the trial court was advised that the felony cases were scheduled for a projected guilty plea. Although D.T.’s attorney stated D.T. had not yet made up his mind whether he would be pleading guilty, his attorney did confirm that probable cause had been found on the new charges. Indeed, the State reported that D.T. had gone through the preliminary hearing stage and that probable cause had already been found. Inasmuch as the first condition of D.T.’s original dispositional order finding him delinquent stated that he was to “[c]ommit no new law violations arising to the level of probable cause,” the trial court had ample evidence to lift the stay order based upon a preponderance of the evidence without resorting to additional information. As a result, we leave for another day the question of the propriety of the court’s taking judicial notice of its file and the trial court’s calling of a witness sua sponte.

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