Indiana Supreme Court Finds Juvenile Mental Health Statute Conveys Use and Derivative Use Immunity during Therapeutic Polygraph Examination

State v. I.T. 4 N.E.3d 1139 (Ind. 2014)

The Indiana Supreme Court has held that the State’s Juvenile Mental Health Statute, Ind. Code § 31-23-2-2.5(b), that bars a minor’s statement to a mental health evaluator from being admitted into evidence to prove delinquency conveys both use and derivative use immunity to a minor in a later delinquency proceeding based on new charges. To hold otherwise, the Court held, would violate the youth’s Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination.

I.T., a minor, admitted to felony child molesting that would have been a felony if he had been an adult. As a condition of probation, I.T. was ordered to undergo treatment for juveniles with sexual behavior problems, including polygraph examinations. During one of the exams, I.T. admitted to molesting two other children. As a result, I.T. was removed from his home and placed in juvenile detention, and then moved to a residential treatment program, the Sexually Traumatized Adolescents in Residential Treatment (START) program. The Department of Child Services and the police also investigated the minor’s admissions and interviewed one of the victims and I.T. The State then filed a new delinquency petition based on I.T.’s statements to his therapist. Under Indiana law, the juvenile court must approve the filing of a new petition. It initially did so, but I.T. moved to dismiss the petition on the grounds that the Juvenile Mental Health Statute barred the State’s evidence. The trial court agreed finding that absent the minor’s statements to the evaluator, it could find no other evidence to support a probable cause finding to support the petition. The court then gave the State ten days to file a new petition based upon independently obtained evidence, but the State instead appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The Court of Appeals found that the State has no authority to appeal a juvenile court’s order withdrawing its approval of the filing of a delinquency petition under state law and dismissed the appeal. The State then appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court and that Court granted certiorari and reviewed the case. The Supreme Court found that the trial court’s order withdrawing its approval of the filing of the petition was essentially an order suppressing evidence. When the ultimate effect of a trial court’s order is to preclude further prosecution, the Court held, the State may appeal that order even though there was no statute authorizing appeal in this situation.

On the merits, the State argued that the Juvenile Mental Health Statute prevents it from using I.T.’s actual statements at trial, but does not prevent it from using his statements to develop other evidence. The State conceded that it had no other evidence than that derived from the youth’s statements. Under this argument, the Statute would provide “use immunity” under the Fifth Amendment, but not “derivative use” immunity, meaning the State could use the statement to pursue and develop other evidence to prosecute the juvenile. The Supreme Court disagreed finding that the plain language of the statute conveys “use immunity” except in limited situations, such as a probation revocation hearing, a modification of disposition proceeding or a proceeding in which the juvenile raises the insanity defense. The Court then went on to find that “use immunity” alone cannot protect an individual’s Fifth Amendment right against selfincrimination unless it also conveys “derivative use” immunity. Otherwise investigators could still use compelled testimony to search out other evidence against the individual. The Court noted that the trial court had ordered I.T. into treatment as a condition of his probation and his remaining silent during that therapy could be found to violate his probation due to his failure to participate. To permit the filing of a new petition based upon compulsory participation in a therapeutic polygraph examination without any independent evidence to prove the violations would therefore run afoul of his constitutional privilege against self-incrimination.

The conveyance of derivative use immunity, the Court held, is also consistent with the purposes of the juvenile code. In enacting the Juvenile Mental Health Statute, the legislature found that well over half of minors detained had mental health or substance abuse problems. The legislative history also revealed that encouraging research-based programs can reduce recidivism and future involvement in the juvenile justice system, but that without open and honest communications between treatment providers and patients, the rehabilitative process would fail. The Court found that, as a result, the Statute must prevent the use of information obtained through the treatment process, including therapeutic polygraph examinations. The Supreme Court therefore held that a juvenile’s compelled statements cannot be used against him even in a probable cause affidavit and dismissed the State’s appeal.

Found in DMHL Volume 33 Issue 2