Wednesday, April 30, 2014

KYSC – R.S. v. Comm -- Juvenile Trial Practice Procedures and Juvenile Restitution

R.S. v. Commonwealth, 423 S.W.3d 178 (Ky. 2014) - R.S. was charged with complicity to second degree criminal mischief for allegedly participating in the vandalism of a car.  Though the evidence showed his involvement was minor, he was ordered to pay full restitution to the victim.

The case was appealed to the Kentucky Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s verdict.  However, in doing so the Court made several significant changes to juvenile law. 

First, the court eliminated the requirement of a motion for directed verdict in a juvenile adjudication, holding that at the close of the Commonwealth’s evidence, defense counsel should instead move for dismissal under CR 41.02(2).  The significance of the difference is that upon making such a motion the juvenile court is required to “‘weigh and evaluate the evidence,’” rather than “indulge every inference in the [Commonwealth’s] favor’” as required with a directed verdict.

Second, the court found that in juvenile cases where the court seeks to order restitution, the court must hold a restitution hearing, and make findings on the record as to why restitution is in the “best interests” of the child.  Restitution must be reasonable, balancing the interests of making the victim whole with the child’s ability to pay.  Factors to be considered include the child’s age, earning ability, employment status, the ability of parents to pay, and the existence of any legal remedies available to the victim other than restitution.

R.S. was represented at various stages of the appellate process by several former and current members of the Juvenile Post Disposition Branch, including Gail Robinson, Dawn Fesmier, and John Wampler. John Wampler argued the case before the Kentucky Supreme Court

Contributed by John Wampler