- Juvenile Defense and Court Process — Idaho Youth Receive Broad Right to Counsel and Protections in Court Proceedings: Thanks to a new Idaho law adding new protections for youth in court, statements made by youth in diversion proceedings are now inadmissible as evidence of guilt in adjudication proceedings. The law also grants youth the same right to counsel as adults; youth now have the right to representation at all stages of a case, including revocation of probation, appeal, and other post-disposition matters or review proceedings. Any waiver of the right to counsel must be made in writing, on the record, and upon a finding of the court that takes into consideration age, maturity, the presence of a parent/guardian, the seriousness of the offense, collateral consequences, and whether there is a conflict between the interests of the youth and his or her parent or guardian. The law prohibits waiver of counsel in certain circumstances, including if a youth is under 14 years of age, is being adjudicated for a felony, at sentencing hearings where the state is recommending commitment, and at competency hearings. H.B. 149/Act No. 222, signed into law April 2, 2013; effective July 1, 2013.
- Youth in the Adult System —Youth Tried as Adults May Be Held in Juvenile Detention Facilities: Idaho law now provides that youth being treated as adult offenders may be housed with the general population in a juvenile detention center upon court order. The court may make the order on its own, or pursuant to a petition by one of the parties in the case. Prior law prohibited youth who were waived to adult court from being housed in a juvenile detention facility without sight and sound separation from the other youth. Youth waived to adult court may now be housed with the general juvenile population if it is determined by the detention administration that the safety and security of the other youth would not be at risk. In passing the law, the legislature acknowledged that it is in the best interest of youth being tried as adults to be held with other youth their own age while awaiting trial, sentencing, or other disposition. S.B. 1003/Ch. 7, signed into law February 18, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
- Competency — Legislature Establishes Standards for Competency Evaluations: Prior to new legislation in Idaho, youth who were believed to be incompetent to stand trial were evaluated and treated based on the state’s adult competency statute. New legislation acknowledges the inappropriateness of applying the adult standard to youth, noting unique issues related to youth’s developmental, mental, and emotional maturity. Additionally, the law recognizes that costly restrictive confinement is often unnecessary for youth in such a situation; however, commitment is mandated in Idaho for adults determined to be incompetent. Under the legislation, if the juvenile court determines that there is good cause to believe that a youth is incompetent to proceed, it must stay all proceedings and appoint a psychiatrist or psychologist to evaluate the youth’s mental condition and report to the court. The law outlines indicators of competency, factors to be considered in the evaluation, items to be included in the report, and how the court should proceed depending on the conclusion of the report, allowing for community-based services when appropriate. H.B. 140/Ch. 178, signed into law April 5, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
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Photo: Amy Ross, under Creative Commons License.