In re Interest of Steven S., a child under 18 years of age.
Steven S., appellant. State of Nebraska, appellee.
Courts: Juvenile Courts: Jurisdiction: Appeal and Error. An
appellate court reviews a juvenile court's decision to
transfer a juvenile offender's case to county court or
district court de novo on the record for an abuse of
Juvenile Courts: Appeal and Error. When the evidence is in
conflict, an appellate court may give weight to the fact that
the lower court observed the witnesses and accepted one
version of the facts over the other.
Courts: Juvenile Courts: Jurisdiction: Proof. When the
prosecution seeks to transfer a juvenile offender's case
to criminal court, the juvenile court must retain the matter
unless a preponderance of the evidence shows that the
proceeding should be transferred to the county court or
district court. The prosecution has the burden by a
preponderance of the evidence to show why such proceeding
should be transferred.
Courts: Juvenile Courts: Jurisdiction. In determining whether
a case should be transferred to criminal court, a juvenile
court should consider those factors set forth in Neb. Rev.
Stat. § 43-276 (Reissue 2016). In order to transfer the
proceedings, the court need not resolve every factor against
the juvenile, and there are no weighted factors and no
prescribed method by which more or less weight is assigned to
a specific factor. It is a balancing test by which public
protection and societal security are weighed against the
practical and nonproblematical rehabilitation of the
from the Separate Juvenile Court of Lancaster County: Reggie
L. Ryder, Judge. Affirmed.
Neb. 448] Joe Nigro, Lancaster County Public Defender, and
Sarah J. Safarik for appellant.
A. Parpart, Deputy Lancaster County Attorney, for appellee.
Heavican, C.J., Miller-Lerman, Cassel, Stacy, and Funke, JJ.,
and Colborn and Samson, District Judges.
S. appeals an order of the separate juvenile court
transferring his case to county court. We begin by settling
the standard of review, which is a matter of first
impression. Because of the nature of juvenile courts and the
statutory provisions governing such transfers, we determine
that the appropriate standard of review is de novo on the
record for an abuse of discretion. Having considered the
evidence, upon our de novo review, we find no abuse of
discretion in the transfer. We affirm the order of the
September 2017, Steven and another juvenile were being
transported from juvenile detention facilities to the Youth
Rehabilitation and Treatment Center (YRTC) in Kearney,
Nebraska. While en route, the juveniles discussed not wanting
to go to Kearney. Steven freed his hand from a wrist
restraint and opened the passenger door, allowing both
juveniles to escape from custody. Shortly thereafter, law
enforcement took them into custody without incident.
State filed a petition in the separate juvenile court of
Lancaster County charging Steven with escape. This is a Class
IV felony offense. The State simultaneously filed [299 Neb.
449] a motion to transfer Steven's case from juvenile
court to county court.
juvenile court conducted a transfer hearing. Evidence showed
that Steven's contacts with law enforcement dated back to
2011. He was placed on probation for disturbing the peace
committed in 2011 and for criminal mischief committed in
April 2012. In February 2013, a court adjudicated Steven on a
charge of disturbing the peace and committed him to the
Office of Juvenile Services. He received probation for
criminal mischief committed in January 2015 and for an
assault in April.
the course of Steven's involvement with juvenile court,
he had multiple out-of-home placements. Lancaster County
Youth Services Center (YSC) housed him for approximately 1
month, before he was placed at a group home in Iowa at the
end of March 2014. Steven successfully completed the program
and returned home in November. But approximately 5 months
later, he was detained at YSC for an assault. At that time,
Steven was also being uncooperative with his electronic
monitor and with services.
2015, Steven was placed at a psychiatric residential
treatment facility. He ran away from that program after
approximately 3 months and was "on run" for
approximately 2 weeks. After being held at YSC for a few
weeks, Steven was placed at a group home. After a little over
2 weeks, Steven ran away. Once detained, the State filed a
motion to send Steven to the YRTC. Steven remained at the
YRTC for about 7 months, until June 2016, and returned to his
mother's home in Lincoln, Nebraska, after successfully
completing the program.
being home for approximately 3 months, Steven cut off his
electronic monitor. He allegedly took his mother's
vehicle to Omaha, Nebraska, and was on run for about 3 days.
After being detained, Steven had relatively short stays [299
Neb. 450] at YSC, "Cedars Shelter, " and a
relative's home. In December 2016, Steven was placed at a
different group home in Iowa. After approximately 3 months,
he again went on run. After being on run for about 1 day,
Steven was located with another youth in a stolen vehicle
that was stuck in mud. He was detained for some time in
"Sarpy County Detention" and then transferred to
April 2017, Steven returned to the YRTC. In August, he
absconded with another youth and was on run for almost 3
weeks. He had been in detention since being apprehended, but
he remained under a commitment to the YRTC.
Trotter, Steven's intensive supervision probation officer
since November 2015, noted that Steven did not turn himself
in on any of the times that he was on run. He had an
electronic monitor on three occasions and was not compliant
on any of those occasions. She could not think of any
additional services that could be used to help Steven be
successful in his home. She explained, "I think
we've offered . . . the family everything that probation
has available to us at this time and it doesn't seem like
it's working." She testified that the YRTC was the
most structured and secure environment that probation could
September 2016, a co-occurring evaluation was performed to
examine mental health and substance abuse symptoms. It stated
Overall, Steven continues to struggle with impulsivity and
low frustration tolerance, which has resulted in a history of
oppositional behaviors, which have led to multiple arrests
and out of home placements. If Steven is not able to find
ways to better regulate his emotions these behaviors are
likely to continue and even worsen.
Trotter discussed a couple of matters favorable to Steven.
The only time that Steven tested positive on a drug screen
was when he was taking prescribed painkillers. Trotter
testified that Steven consistently attended high school when
he was in [299 Neb. 451] the community, that he obtained good
grades, and that teachers liked him. Unfortunately, due to
all the times that Steven was on run, he was not on track to
also testified regarding a couple of traumatic events in
Steven's life. Steven's father passed away during
Steven's first commitment at the YRTC. In July 2016, a
firework injured Steven's hand, causing a loss of parts
of his fingers and a hearing loss.
after the instant escape charge, Steven continued to display
problematic behavior. On September 9, 2017, he joined in a
fight occurring in his housing unit. Four days later, he
commented that he would continue the fight if allowed out
with the youth. On September 17 and 18, Steven disobeyed
staff orders. On the latter day, he received a "Major
Rule Violation for Obstruction of Correctional
October 2017, Dr. Colleen A. Conoley performed a
neu-ropsychological/psychological evaluation on Steven.
Steven's attorney requested the evaluation and sought an
expert opinion on whether the case should be transferred to
adult court. Trotter testified that if probation had been
aware of the evaluation, she would have provided the
YRTC's intake and monthly updates, as well as
Steven's entire school record.
opined that Steven was amenable to treatment in the juvenile
court. She stated that the correct clinical priority was
treatment of Steven's post-traumatic stress disorder. She
opined that it would be best to aggressively treat
Steven's post-traumatic stress disorder before addressing
anger and resentment issues and that "[t]he juvenile
justice system has more flexibility and access to resources
and medication than available through the adult system."
Conoley also stated, "He continues to require resources
that are better handled at the juvenile levels, including
access to peers, special education, ...