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AGO 1958 No. 164 - February 25, 1958
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John J. O'Connell | 1957-1968 | Attorney General of Washington

JUVENILES ‑- CONFINEMENT AFTER REMAND BY THE JUVENILE COURT TO THE SUPERIOR COURT FOR TRIAL UNDER THE CRIMINAL CODE AND PRIOR TO TRIAL.

COURTS ‑- AUTHORITY TO DETAIN JUVENILES UNDER THE AGE OF 18 IN A COUNTY OR CITY JAIL PENDING TRIAL ON A CRIMINAL CHARGE.CRIME ‑- CONFINEMENT OF JUVENILES AWAITING TRIAL ON A CRIMINAL CHARGE.

(1) Juveniles under the age of 16 who have been remanded to the superior court for trial by the superior court on a criminal charge may not be detained in either a county or city jail pending trial even if they are kept separate and apart from the adult prisoners.

(2) Juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 who have been remanded to the superior court for trial on a criminal charge may be detained in either a city or county jail pending trial but they should be kept separate and apart from adult prisoners whenever possible.

(3) The fact that the juvenile is charged with a violation of a city ordinance does not affect the answers to the first two questions.

                                                                  - - - - - - - - - - - - -

                                                                February 25, 1958

Honorable Charles O. Carroll
Prosecuting Attorney
King County
County-City Building
Seattle 4, Washington                                                                                 Cite as:  AGO 57-58 No. 164

Dear Sir:

            You have requested the opinion of this office on the following questions, which we paraphrase as follows:

            1.  May juveniles under the age of 16, and over whom the juvenile court has waived jurisdiction, be detained in either a city or county jail pending trial, if they are kept separate and apart from adult prisoners?

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            2.  May juveniles over the age of 16, and over whom the juvenile court has waived jurisdiction, be detained in either a city or county jail pending trial, if they are kept separate and apart from adult prisoners?

            3.  If the juvenile is charged with violation of a city ordinance, would that fact affect the answer to the first two questions?

            We answer your first and third questions in the negative and your second question in the affirmative, as modified in the analysis.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            RCW 13.04.010 defines a delinquent child for purposes of the juvenile court act as "all minor children under the age of eighteen years who are delinquent or dependent."  It further provides that

            "The words 'delinquent child' shall include any child under the age of eighteen years who violates any law of this state, or any ordinance of any town, city, county or city and county of this state defining crime; . . ."

            RCW 13.04.030 provides that the superior courts of the state shall have original jurisdiction over such juvenile offenders.

            RCW 13.04.115, which is controlling in the present instance, provides as follows:

            "No court or magistrate shall commit a child under sixteen years of age to a jail, common lock-up, or police station; but if such child is unable to give bail, it may be committed to the care of the sheriff, police officer, or probation officer, who shall keep such child in some suitable place or house or school of detention provided by the city or county, outside the inclosure of any jail or police station, or in the care of any association willing to receive it and having as one of its objects the care of delinquent, dependent or neglected children.  When any child shall be sentenced to confinement in any institution to which adult convicts are sentenced, it shall be unlawful to confine such child in the same building with such adult convicts, or to bring such child into any yard or building in which such adult convicts may be present."  (Emphasis supplied.)

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            In addition, RCW 13.04.120 provides, in pertinent part, as follows:

            "When, in any county where a juvenile court is held, a child under the age of eighteen years is taken into custody by a parole, peace, police or probation officer, such child shall be taken directly before such court, or placed in the detention home or place under the jurisdiction of such court, or into the custody of the court probation officer: Provided, That if the parent, guardian, custodian or a responsible relative of the child furnishes the officer a signed statement agreeing to produce the child at the next juvenile court session, the child may be released to the signer of the statement. . . .

            "The court may proceed to hear and dispose of the case in the same manner as if the child had been brought before the court upon petition as hereinbefore provided. . . . Pending final disposition of the case the court may make such disposition of the custody of the child as it shall deem for the best welfare of the child.  If, upon investigation, it shall appear that a child has been arrested upon the charge of having committed a crime, the court, in its discretion, may order such child to be turned over to the proper officers for trial under the provisions of the criminal code."  (Emphasis supplied.)

            In the case ofState ex rel. Sowders v. Superior Court, 105 Wash. 684, the court held that the word "commit" as used in the first sentence of RCW 13.04.115,supra, refers to detention during investigation or correction by the juvenile court and does not refer to a sentence pronounced after trial under the criminal law.  However, it is our opinion that the first sentence also applies to children under 16 years of age who have been remanded to the proper officer for trial under the criminal code, as the statute prohibits their confinement in any jail, common lock-up or police station by any "court or magistrate" having jurisdiction over such child.  Obviously, by the use of the words, "no court or magistrate" the legislature did not restrict the application of the first sentence to the juvenile court.

            The juvenile court law makes no distinction between county and city jails.

            We conclude, therefore, that juveniles under the age of 16 who have been remanded to the superior court for trial on a criminal charge may not be detained in either a county or city jail pending trial even if they are kept separate and apart from the adult prisoners.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 4]]

            Your second question deals with the confinement of juveniles over the age of 16 awaiting trial in the superior court on a criminal charge.  RCW 13.04.120 has application only to juveniles under 18 who are being detained by the juvenile court and has no application to those who have been remanded to the superior court for trial on a criminal charge.

            While the first sentence of RCW 13.04.115, supra, is limited expressly to children under 16 years of age, the second sentence of that section refers to "any child" and does not relate back to the subject of the first sentence "a child under sixteen years of age."  It is our opinion that the term "any child" must be construed to include any child as designated in the juvenile court act, that is, any person under the age of 18 years.  Thus, if any child under 18 has been sentenced after conviction of a crime, it is unlawful to place such child in the same building with adult convicts.  If a juvenile must be kept separate and apart from adult prisoners after conviction, there is all the more reason for separating them pending trial on a criminal charge.  Clearly, it is within the spirit and purpose of the act relating to juveniles that prior to conviction they be afforded some measure of protection from undesirable association with adult offenders.  If any salutary effect is to be accomplished by the confinement of a juvenile separate from an adult after conviction, the same should certainly apply pending trial.

            Accordingly it is our opinion, in view of the broad powers granted to the juvenile court, that the court may, in its discretion, when remanding a juvenile over the age of 16 to the proper officials for trial under the criminal code, direct that such juvenile be confined in the county or city jail, separate and apart from adult prisoners, in order to carry out the spirit and purpose of the law, and it is our recommendation that such a procedure be followed wherever possible.

            We are advised that the administrative practice in King and Spokane Counties has been consistent with this interpretation for many years.

            Your third question concerns a possible distinction in the method of confinement between violators of a city ordinance and a state statute.  We find nothing in the statutes which indicates a legislative intent that a juvenile charged with the violation of a city ordinance should be confined in any manner different than a juvenile charged with the violation of a state statute.  Under RCW 13.04.010 both are delinquent children and must be accorded the same treatment.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            Our conclusion may be briefly stated as follows:

            (1) Juveniles under the age of 16 who have been remanded to the superior court for trial by that court on a criminal charge may not be detained in either a county or city jail pending trial even if they are kept separate and apart from adult prisoners.

            (2) Juveniles between the ages of 16 and 18 who have been remanded to the superior court for trial on a criminal charge may be detained in either a city or county jail pending trial, but they should be kept separate and apart from adult prisoners whenever possible.

            (3) The fact that a juvenile is charged with a violation of a city ordinance rather than a state statute does not affect the answers to the above questions.

            We trust this information will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

JOHN J. O'CONNELL
Attorney General

HENRY WAGER
Assistant Attorney General

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