DID THE COURT ERR BY COMMITTING THE STUDENT TO THE TEXAS YOUTH COMMISSION?
Case citation: In the Matter of J.G., 2013 WL 490941 (Tex. App. – Austin 2013) (unpublished).
Summary: J.G. was referred for juvenile-delinquency proceedings based on allegations that he first elbowed a teacher’s aide in the stomach, and then scratched, resisted, and repeatedly slapped the arm of another school employee. J.G. did not dispute the allegations. On July 15, 2010, he was adjudicated delinquent for two counts of assault on a public servant, a third-degree felony. He was placed on probation for one year in his mother’s custody.
Nearly a year later, the State of Texas filed a motion to modify the disposition based on J.G.’s failure to comply with the terms of his probation. Specifically, the student failed to report to his probation officer on at least five occasions in the preceding three-month period. He also missed fourteen days of school without excuse in a two-month period, and violated school rules on four occasions in the preceding month. As a result, the court extended J.G.’s probation for six months and placed him back in his mother’s custody.
Shortly thereafter, however, J.G. was placed in a juvenile detention center based on further probation violations, including multiple unexcused absences, four violations of school rules, and a curfew violation. While in custody, he was repeatedly written up for major and minor infractions. Consequently, after a hearing, J.G. was committed to the custody of the Texas Youth Commission (TYC). J.G. appealed, seeking a less restrictive custody.
Ruling: The appeals court affirmed J.G.’s commitment to TYC. The appeals court observed that commitment to the TYC by modification order is proper only if a juvenile originally committed a felony and subsequently violated one or more conditions of probation. A court that modifies a custody order must specifically state the reasons for modifying the disposition. The court must also find that (1) it is in the child’s best interests to be placed outside the child’s home, (2) reasonable efforts were made to prevent or eliminate the need for the child’s removal from the home and to make it possible for the child to return home, and (3) the child cannot, in the child’s home, be provided the quality of care and the level of support and supervision that the child needs to meet the conditions of probation. If these conditions are met, an appeals court will not overrule a trial court’s determination, absent an abuse of discretion.
Here, the evidence supported the trial court’s order committing J.G. to TYC. The record showed that J.G. was originally adjudicated delinquent for assaulting and causing bodily injury to two teachers – a third degree felony. He was placed on probation, which he repeatedly violated. Eventually, he was placed in a detention center, but continued to be violent, abusive, and defiant. The record showed that he assaulted detention officers, created a flood, and was generally disruptive. As a result of this record, the appeals court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in ordering J.G.’s commitment to the TYC. The appeals court affirmed the trial court’s judgment.