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In re N.R.W.

Court of Appeals of Missouri, Eastern District, Third Division

February 23, 2016

In the Interest of: N.R.W., Minor

          Appeal from the Circuit Court of St. Charles County, Missouri. 13AD-JU00213. Honorable Nancy L. Schneider.

         Donald Ray Woolbright, Pro se, Appellant, Saint Peters, Missouri.

         Charlene Elizabeth Stockman, Saint Charles, Missouri, for Respondent.

          OPINION

         James M. Dowd, Judge

         N.R.W. (" Juvenile" ) appeals from the judgment and order of disposition of the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court of St. Charles County arising out of the charges against Juvenile for possession of a controlled substance (over thirty-five grams of marijuana) and possession of drug paraphernalia. The court found Juvenile committed the offenses and ordered Juvenile to attend outpatient substance abuse treatment. When Juvenile failed to attend the court-ordered treatment, the court committed Juvenile to the Division of Youth Services until Juvenile's eighteenth birthday. Because we find that the court failed to comply with the statutory provisions applicable to Juvenile's right to counsel, we reverse and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

         Jurisdiction

         We note at the outset that since Juvenile turned eighteen on May 4, 2014, Juvenile completed his commitment to the Division of Youth Services before this appeal was filed, thus raising the question of whether this appeal is moot. We address this issue sua sponte because we lack jurisdiction to decide moot issues. T.C.T. v. Shafinia, 351 S.W.3d 34, 36 (Mo.App.W.D. 2011).

         While juvenile court records are normally confidential, there is an exception found in section 211.321.[1] According to section 211.321.2(2), since Juvenile was adjudicated delinquent for an offense that would be considered a felony if committed by an adult, the records of Juvenile's dispositional hearing under certain circumstances may be open to the public which represents a significant collateral consequence for Juvenile into his adult life. See section 195.202.2 (stating, inter alia, that possession of thirty-five grams or more of marijuana is a class C felony); In re A.G.R., 359 S.W.3d 103, 108 (Mo.App.W.D. 2011) (recognizing an exception to mootness where the decision being appealed could have significant collateral consequences for one or more of the parties); State v. Sapien, 337 S.W.3d 72, 77-78 (Mo.App.W.D. 2011) (finding pursuant to section 211.321.2(2) that it was proper to allow juvenile court records into evidence during the sentencing phase of defendant's trial as an adult). As a result, we find that this appeal is not moot and we have jurisdiction.

         Facts and Procedural History

         In July 2013, when Juvenile was sixteen years old, a petition was filed in the Juvenile Division of the Circuit Court of St. Charles County alleging that on April 2, 2013, Juvenile committed the delinquent acts of possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

         On September 10, 2013, Juvenile appeared with his parents for his adjudication hearing for the court to determine whether Juvenile committed the acts alleged in the petition. The Juvenile Officer was represented by counsel who called two witnesses. Juvenile's father (" Father" ) appeared at the hearing and questioned the witnesses, but Father is not an attorney. No record was made regarding Juvenile's right to counsel, his parents' right to counsel, or whether Juvenile or his parents objected to proceeding without counsel or waived counsel. At the close of the evidence, the trial court found that it had jurisdiction over Juvenile and found beyond a reasonable doubt that Juvenile committed the offenses charged.

         On October 15, 2013, Juvenile appeared with both of his parents for his dispositional hearing to determine Juvenile's punishment. Again, no record was made regarding Juvenile's right to counsel or his parents' right to counsel. The court ordered Juvenile to be placed in the custody of his parents under the supervision of the court and for Juvenile to undergo a substance abuse program.

         On December 11, 2013, the Juvenile Officer filed a motion to modify the court's disposition order on the basis that Juvenile had violated his court-ordered supervision by failing to attend the substance abuse treatment. The matter was set for hearing on December 23, 2013, and notice of that hearing was sent to Juvenile and his parents informing them that Juvenile had the right to have an attorney represent him at the hearing and that if he could not afford one, the court would appoint an attorney for him.

         On December 16, 2013, Juvenile requested a continuance and that an attorney be appointed to represent Juvenile and his parents in the matter. The court appointed an attorney to represent Juvenile, but did not appoint an attorney to represent his parents. ...


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