The issue at hand involves a 15-year-old girl who has been charged with the status offenses of Incorrigibility, Runaway, Truancy, Curfew Violation, and Underage Drinking. The facts indicate that her stepfather had sexually abused her, and as a result, she ran away from home. She stopped attending school, and was staying with friends in their 20’s who liked to drink and party. As her attorney, I have filed a motion asking that each of these charges be dismissed as they violate her rights to Due Process and Equal Protection as she would not have been subject to prosecution for any of these offenses if she were an adult. This paper presents arguments in support of the motion, which prefers the charges to be dismissed. Additionally, the paper also presents the alternatives to juvenile court that would help in dealing with this case.
The laws of the state provide the good cause exception in all the status offenses preferred against the juvenile client (National Research Council, & United States of America, 2012). This brings the argument in defense of the client and in support of the preferred motion to the fact that stepfather had sexually abused the client. The facts of the case do not indicate in any sense that any legal actions had been taken against the stepfather and this means that the girl could still be feeling threatened by her father. The existence of an imminent threat in her family itself is a reasonable cause for running away and the legal interpretation requires the court and other state parties to assist the girl instead of keeping her in a juvenile correctional center or a courtroom that will just exacerbate her suffering. In other words, the court should consider this girl as a victim who has gone through mental and physical suffering. Her suffering emanates from home on the fact that it is the stepfather who assaulted her sexually. The consequence of being assaulted and feeling threatened in the environment where she was supposed to feel protected wears down the innate desire to be at home with the family.
Still for the good cause exception, a child who has been suffering mentally cannot and would not be able to concentrate in class. This means that the child could be in class physically but due to psychological trauma she was not able to concentrate. In result, the child preferred to stay out of class and the court refers to that as truancy. There is no evidence whatsoever that the teachers, the guardians, the court, or anybody else attempted to find the cause of this status offense. It means that the court could try to force the girl remain in class, yet this would only be dealing with the symptoms of the problem and not the root cause. Secondly, the court has not established that truancy has been habitual for the girl in this case and neither did the court attempt to establish other supporting facts of the case such as girl’s in class performance before and after the sexual assault, with my client being the victim and her stepfather – the offender. Lastly, truancy in this case also involves a charge on defiance of parental authority, which according to Simmons v. State should not be the case (Inada, 2010). Considering the good cause and the lack of evidence that truancy was habitual, it is preferred that the charges be dismissed as they violate the girl’s rights to due process and equal protection.
On the third count, which is underage drinking, it would be of paramount importance for the court to focus not on the behavior of the child but on the root cause of the problem and how long it has existed. Firstly, the facts of the case do not indicate any information about when the young girl started drinking but, presumably, this could be after the sexual assault and after joining the new group of friends who like to drink and party. For the good cause, it is important to note that this physically and emotionally assaulted girl tried to seek support, which was eminently absent from her family considering that she was offended by the person she trusted. This must have pushed the girl to join friends in search of support and they probably believed that drinking alcohol would help her forget about the assault. Instead of charges, the court should find another support system that would assist the girl in recovering from the trauma that was the result of a sexual assault.
On the last two counts, which include incorrigibility and curfew violation, it is important to look not only at good cause defense but also at the source of the information on this uncivil behavior. A legal guardian, or a parent, who takes good care of the child, may defy the curfew. In our case, the girl was supposed to be subjected to orders from the person who assaulted her. This case was developed upon the parent’s complaints (National Research Council, & United States of America, 2012). Secondly, the same parent was involved in assaulting the child which is one of the reasons as to why the court should not expect the stepfather to adopt a more charitable view of the child than he did when he assaulted the girl and in handling the assault case. Considering this, it is important to note that the information provided by the parent complainant could be grossly subjective and using such information in proceedings against the child would violate her constitutional rights to due process and equal protection (Inada, 2010).
In conclusion, the good cause exception, habitual behavior argument, and parental complaints subjectivities should serve as a good reason as to why the court ought to dismiss the charges of status offenses against the girl. After the dismissal of the charges, the girl should be provided with psychological support to help her recover. Secondly, the young girl ought to be granted dependency support considering that she is only 15 years old and she still needs to go on with school comfortably. Thirdly, it is highly preferred that the patient is provided with support from a guardian other than her stepfather, though the parents must also be compelled to cater for all her financial needs. Lastly, it is recommended that the stepfather be subjected to the rule of law especially if the court determines that charges were not preferred against him for this crime.