Heard: April 4, 2019.
Child. Juvenile Court, Delinquent child,
Jurisdiction. Jurisdiction, Delinquent child,
Juvenile Court, Juvenile delinquency proceeding.
Practice, Criminal, Juvenile delinquency proceeding.
Statute, Retroactive application.
actions commenced in the Supreme Judicial Court for the
county of Suffolk on September 4 and 21, 2018.
cases were reported by Cypher, J.
Melissa Allen Celli (Katherine J. Perry-Lorentz, Committee
for Public Counsel Services, also present) for Miles M.
Jellison (Stephanie Stolk Ormsby, Committee for Public
Counsel Services, also present) for Lazlo L.
A. Sullivan, Assistant District Attorney, & David L.
Sheppard-Brick, Assistant District Attorney, for the
Benjamin L. Falkner, for youth advocacy division of the
Committee for Public Counsel Services & another, amici
curiae, submitted a brief.
E. Lee, Assistant District Attorney, for District Attorney
for the Bristol District, amicus curiae, submitted a brief.
Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher,
& Kafker, JJ.
July 12, 2018, "a child between seven and [eighteen] who
violates any city ordinance or town by-law or who commits any
offence against a law of the commonwealth" could be
adjudicated a "delinquent child" in the Juvenile
Court. See G. L. c. 119, § 52, as amended through St.
2013, c. 84, § 7; G. L. c. 119, § 58. On and after
that date, as a result of the enactment of St. 2018, c. 69,
entitled "An Act relative to criminal justice
reform" (act), a child who commits an offense before the
age of twelve or who commits a civil infraction, violates a
municipal ordinance or town bylaw, or commits a first offense
of a misdemeanor "for which the punishment is a fine,
imprisonment in a jail or house of correction for not more
than [six] months or both such fine and imprisonment"
can no longer be adjudicated a "delinquent child."
St. 2018, c. 69, § 72.The cases before us concern
two juveniles who allegedly committed offenses before July
12, 2018, but whose cases remained pending before the
Juvenile Court on and after that date. There is no dispute
that, if their cases had been adjudicated before July 12,
each could have been subject to adjudication as a
"delinquent child." There is also no dispute that,
if they had committed the same offenses on or after July 12,
neither juvenile could be adjudicated a "delinquent
child" under the amended definition of that term because
of age (in the case of Lazlo L.) or because of the nature of the
offenses (in the case of Miles M.) .
issue presented on appeal is whether the amended definition
of "delinquent child" should be applied
retroactively to cases pending on July 12, 2018. We conclude
that it should, and that a child may not be adjudicated a
"delinquent child" on and after this date if he or
she does not fit within the definition of that term as
amended by the act. We therefore vacate the orders denying
the juveniles' motions to dismiss, and remand both
matters to the Juvenile Court, where an order of dismissal
for each case shall issue.
At the time of the events at issue, Lazlo was eleven years
old and living with his mother and stepfather. The
complainant, A.M.,  is the juvenile's stepsister. She
lived primarily with her mother, but would occasionally spend
the night at her father's (Lazlo's stepfather's)
home. A.M. alleges that on one such night in 2017, when she
was thirteen, Lazlo entered her bedroom uninvited and
performed unwanted sexual acts upon her.
April 10, 2018, a complaint issued charging Lazlo with one
count of rape and abuse of a child in violation of G. L. c.
265, § 23. On June 13, Lazlo filed a motion to dismiss
the complaint prior to arraignment, arguing that the
act's amended definition of "delinquent child"
should apply retroactively to his case, and that the Juvenile
Court lacked jurisdiction to adjudicate him a
"delinquent child" because he was eleven years old
at the time of the alleged offense. The Commonwealth opposed
the motion to dismiss, and the motion judge denied
Lazlo's case was pending when the amended definition of
"delinquent child" became effective, and remains
13, 2018, police filed an application for a complaint against
Miles for trespassing in violation of G. L. c. 266, §
120, and disorderly conduct in violation of G. L. c. 272,
§ 53 (b). The following day, a Juvenile Court clerk
found that both charges were supported by probable cause. A
delinquency complaint issued against Miles on June 15. When
he appeared for arraignment on July 9, Miles moved to dismiss
the charges against him prior to arraignment, arguing that
because he had no prior criminal ...