People v. Dennel, 2022 COA 115

The Court of Appeals determined that the Children’s Code “transfer” statute (19-2.5-802) does not require a showing that a 14- or 15-year old has been previously adjudicated of a felony to be transferred to district court in a felony delinquency case.

Johnny Joseph Dennel, Jr. was 15 years old, with no prior convictions or adjudications, when he was charged with committing second degree murder in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. The district attorney filed a motion pursuant to the transfer statute, 19-2.5-802(1)(a)(I)(B), requesting that the juvenile court waive its jurisdiction and transfer the case to district court. The juvenile court transferred the case to district court over Dennel’s objection. In district court, Dennel pled guilty to manslaughter, a class 4 felony. On appeal, he contends that, under the transfer statute, the juvenile court can’t transfer a case against a 15-year old unless the child has at least one prior felony adjudication or conviction. The disagreement stems from the language of 19-2.5-802(1)(a)(I)(B)), which, read in context, states the following: “The juvenile court may enter an order certifying a juvenile to be held for criminal proceedings in the district court if…a petition filed in the juvenile court alleges the juvenile is…fourteen years of age or older at the time of the commission of the alleged offense and is a juvenile delinquent by virtue of having committed a delinquent act that constitutes a felony…”.   The Court of Appeals finds that this doesn’t require a showing that the child has been previously adjudicated as a delinquent, as it does in the direct file statute. Rather, the People must merely include certain information in the delinquency petition to demonstrate transfer eligibility: 1) The juvenile’s age and 2) an allegation that the juvenile has committed a delinquent act that constitutes a felony in the instant case.

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