A.M. v. State

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At age 15, A.M. was adjudicated delinquent and placed on supervised probation. At a subsequent disposition modification hearing, A.M.’s attorney argued that A.M. should serve time in the Department of Corrections rather than advocating for a less restrictive disposition.  A.M.’ was then placed in the custody of the Department of Corrections. 

Juvenile Law Center and National Juvenile Defender Center filed an amicus brief in the Indiana Supreme Court arguing that A.M. was deprived of the effective assistance of counsel.  Our brief argued that a juvenile disposition modification hearing is a “critical stage” in delinquency proceedings entitling children to the effective assistance of counsel under the Sixth Amendment and that counsel who argues that a child should be placed in the harshest and most punitive setting available cannot be said to be providing effective assistance. We further argued that under a Due Process or Sixth Amendment standard, youth must be afforded counsel because of their unique developmental status.

The Supreme Court of Indiana held that “a due process standard governs a child’s claim that he received ineffective assistance in a disposition-modification hearing during his delinquency proceedings” which the court described as a “collaborative setting.” The court further held that because the proceedings “turn[ed] on the best interest of the child,” finding that A.M.’s incarceration “proved consistent with his best interests,” adversarial advocacy by counsel on A.M.’s behalf was unnecessary.