Juvenile First Time Offenders In Arizona Case Law
The Arizona Supreme Court addressed the retroactive application of A.R.S. section 8-207 in In re Shane B. 7 P.3d 94 (Ariz. Jul. 27, 2000).
That case concerned a defendant's designation as a "first time felony juvenile offender" pursuant to A.R.S. section 8-341 (Supp. 1999).
Section 8-341(T)(1) defines a "first time felony juvenile offender" as "a juvenile who is adjudicated delinquent for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult."
Adjudication as a first time felony juvenile offender is the first step toward designation as a chronic felony offender for purposes of adult prosecution under A.R.S. section 13-501(B)(5). If the first time felony juvenile offender commits a subsequent offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult, he is designated a "repeat felony juvenile offender." A.R.S. 8- 341(T)(2). Only after the juvenile has committed two offenses that would qualify as felonies had he been tried as an adult may he be designated a chronic felony offender for purposes of trial as an adult on his third offense. A.R.S. 13-501(B)(5).
The juvenile in Shane B. pled guilty to two counts of third-degree burglary. Shane B. at P 2.
Both burglaries were committed before the effective dates of the amendments to A.R.S. sections 8-341 and 8-207(B). Id. at PP 2 and 5.
The juvenile's guilty plea, however, was entered after the effective date of those amendments. Id.
The trial court adjudicated the juvenile a first time felony juvenile offender, and the juvenile challenged that adjudication on appeal.
The juvenile in Shane B. argued that, because the version of A.R.S. section 8-207 in effect when he committed his offenses provided that "the disposition of a child in the juvenile court may not be used against the child in any case or proceeding in any court other than a juvenile court," his status as a first time felony juvenile offender could not be predicated on his commission of an offense prior to July 21, 1997, the effective date of the post-Proposition 102 versions of sections 8-207 and 8-341. Shane B. at P 5.
The Arizona Supreme Court agreed that application of the first time felony juvenile offender provision to an offense committed before the statute's effective date constituted a retroactive application of the statute. Shane B. at P 7.
The court further acknowledged that, although as a general rule the law prohibits retroactive application of statutes and statutory amendments, the prohibition against retroactive application is not absolute. Id. at P 8. Rather, a court may apply a statute retroactively if it is "merely procedural." Id.
"The relevant inquiry thus becomes whether retroactive application of the statute . . . 'affected an earlier established substantive right' and is therefore improper." Id. at P 8 (quoting St. Joseph's Hosp. and Med. Ctr. v. Superior Court, 164 Ariz. 454, 457, 793 P.2d 1121, 1124 (App. 1990)).
The court concluded in Shane B. that retroactive application of the first time felony juvenile offender provision of section 8-341 had only a procedural effect on the petitioner in that case, and was thus permissible. Shane B. at P 16.
Critical to the court's reasoning was the fact that the petitioner's adjudication as a first time felony juvenile offender had no immediate effect on his ability to remain within the juvenile system. Id. at P 15.
In other words, retroactive application of A.R.S. section 8-341 in that case did not involve the juvenile's actual transfer or immediate risk of transfer to adult court for present crimes:
We conclude, as a matter of law, that petitioner's substantive interests have not been divested by application of the statute to him. Any transfer of petitioner to adult court or consequent forfeiture of juvenile system privileges depends solely on future, as yet non-existent, criminal activity, and we decline to speculate on future criminal activity. the statute does not affect petitioner's present offense. Id. at P 16.