Louisiana Law & Children's Code
Maintaining Safe Environments for Youth
Youth in residential and secure care facilities have the same rights. It is the state’s duty to act as a parent to the youth placed in custody. This is known as “Parens Patriae”. According to Children’s Code Article 801, “In those instances when [a child] is removed from the control of his parents, the court shall secure for him care as nearly as possible equivalent to that which his parents should have given him.” According to State in the Interest of S.D., “the purpose of incarcerating juveniles…is treatment and rehabilitation, due process requires that the conditions and programs…must be reasonably related to that purpose.”
As provided in Children’s Code Article 603(17)(d), a Mandatory Reporter includes a “teaching or child care provider” which is defined as any person who “provides training and supervision of a child, including any…Social Worker, Probation and Parole Officer, foster home parent, group home or other child care facility staff member, personnel of residential home facilities…” OJJ facility staff, probation and parole officers and contract facility personnel are mandatory reporters under this law.
Ch. C. Art. 610 requires that mandatory reporters immediately report to the local child protection unit of DCFS (Department of Children and Family Services) and/or local law enforcement if he/she has cause to believe that a child’s physical or mental health or welfare is endangered as a result of abuse or neglect or that abuse or neglect was a contributing factor in a child’s death. Youth Services Policy C.4.3 contains these same requirements.
Under Revised Statute 14:403 of the Criminal Code, a mandatory reporter who fails to report abuse or neglect, if convicted, can be imprisoned up to six months, fined up to $500, or both. Any person who knowingly files a false report of abuse or employee of a state department who obstructs the procedures for receiving or investigating reports of child abuse or neglect or sexual abuse or who discloses confidential information about or contained in the reports may also be punished in the same manner.
Confidentiality of Youth Records
Establishment of protective measures for guarding the privacy of youthful offenders can be traced to the separation of juvenile courts from criminal court systems, which included the idea of keeping juvenile proceedings and records private.
Juvenile records reflect both the legal and social history of a youth, based on the juvenile’s contact with various state and local agencies and service providers. Social history records often include information about a youth’s family and academic records and any history of abuse or neglect or problems with drug and alcohol use. Legal records include information relating to court proceedings involving the juvenile and information introduced and used as evidence. These records include petitions, complaints, motions, court findings, and court orders.
Recent state action has recognized that many agencies that serve children may be better equipped to do so if provided with comprehensive access to a youth’s records. Policy initiatives that support this idea include expanding access to juvenile records to youth corrections personnel, to courts, and to other state agencies, and school officials in some cases.
The confidential nature of OJJ records is established by statute. Release of records is described in Revised Statute 15:574.12. Paragraph A of the statute establishes the general rule as to confidentiality.
Juvenile files contain educational records protected by the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, 20 United States Code 1232g. Juvenile records may contain detailed medical, mental health and treatment information that is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Public Law 104-191 of 1996.
Under Children’s Code Article 412, records about juvenile court proceedings are confidential. Only the juvenile court can authorize release of documents created from proceedings before the court. Under limited circumstances the District Attorney and law enforcement may release certain identifying information concerning the youth to the public, provided the youth is at least 14 years old when the act occurred.
If juvenile records are subpoenaed, the records must be submitted for an in camera (private) inspection by the court to determine relevancy and whether there is a need to protect the information.
Disclosure of information according to any interagency information-sharing agreement shall only be made between authorized persons within agencies that are involved in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, care, or rehabilitation of children and for the purpose of ensuring cooperation and coordination of all agencies in providing services to children and their families.
Expungement of Case Records
A person ages 17 or older can petition the juvenile court to have records permanently removed in certain cases. This is referred to as expungement.
According to the Children’s Code Article 918, case records may be expunged:
- Where conduct or conditions did not result in an adjudication
- Where conduct or conditions resulted in a misdemeanor adjudication and if two or more years have elapsed since the youth satisfied the conditions of the most recent judgment
Where conduct or conditions resulted in a felony adjudication, the record may be expunged only if:
- the adjudication was not for murder, manslaughter, kidnapping, armed robbery or a sex crime
- 5 years or more have elapsed since the most recent judgment was satisfied
- there are no adult felony convictions or adult misdemeanor convictions involving a weapon
- there is no outstanding indictment or bill of information
Upon service of expungement orders, OJJ is required to remove all references to the petition/adjudication/disposition included in our records. If the petition, adjudication, and/or disposition named in the expungement petition is the only information we have on the youth, OJJ must remove his entry from the case management system and the hard copy of his record is destroyed.
In 1978 Louisiana created the Code of Juvenile Procedure, which included laws relating to status offenders (now called FINS) and delinquents. The Code of Juvenile Procedure did not incorporate the juvenile provisions scattered throughout the law. The Louisiana Children’s Code (Ch.C.) was drafted to combine all the laws affecting juvenile court jurisdiction, resolve ambiguities, reconcile conflicting laws, ensure that statutory law accurately reflects settled case law and provide a single code containing procedural and substantive laws affecting juveniles. The Children’s Code became effective January 1, 1992.
Under the Children’s Code many juvenile delinquency procedures parallel adult criminal procedure but different terminology is used.
If a juvenile is held in custody, the Children’s Code mandates that the proceedings move quickly. Unless good cause is found by the court, there should be no more than 30 days between a juvenile’s appearance to answer the petition and trial. (Ch. C. Art. 877) If the juvenile is not in custody, there should be no more than 90 days between his answer and trial.
Most juveniles adjudicated delinquent or FINS, whose disposition includes removal from their home, are placed with OJJ. However, the court may also commit the juvenile to another state agency, such as the Department of Children and Family Services or the Department of Health and Hospitals, or a private agency. A disposition may not exceed the time allowed by law. There are time limitations for custody.
The Children’s Code contains 16 titles. below we have provided the titles which directly impact and /or reference the youth in the care of OJJ
Title VI deals with Child in Need of Care Proceedings, the provisions under which the Office of Community Services (OCS) may be given custody of a child by the court.
Title VII is FINS (Families in Need of Services). Both OCS and OJJ can receive custody of juveniles under this Title.
Title VIII is the delinquency title, containing a section on the constitutional rights afforded to juveniles. (See Ch. C. Art. 808- 811.) The only constitutional right denied to juveniles is the right to a jury trial. Because the focus in juvenile court is rehabilitation rather than punishment, the judge is in the best position to decide the juvenile’s case.
Serious Offenses by a Juvenile -Ch. C. Art. 897.1
Children’s Code Article 897.1 applies to adjudications based on commission of first and second degree murder, aggravated rape, aggravated kidnapping and armed robbery when committed by a youth 14 years or older. Youth committed under this article cannot receive probation and are not eligible for parole or modification.
Youth adjudicated based on these offenses must be committed until their 21st birthday and the disposition must be served in a secure care facility. There is no mandatory length of disposition for a youth adjudicated for armed robbery but the disposition must be served in a secure care facility.