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October 15, 2005

Alaska on Blakely's applicability to juvenile transfer

One interesting issue concerning the reach of Apprendi and Blakely concerns their potential applicability to the judicial fact-finding required in many states for transfering a juvenile offender to an adult court (where, typically, a much higher maximum sentence is available).  I noted in this June post a Texas ruling finding Apprendi applicable to such juvenile bind-overs, and I received news of an Alaska decision yesterday going the other way.

Interestingly, the decision in Alaska v. Kalmakoff, No. A-8911 (Ala. App. Oct. 14, 2005) (available here), reveals that the trial court "concluded that the reasoning of Apprendi and Blakely applied to juvenile waiver hearings," and that a jury was needed "to determine whether Kalmakoff was not amenable to treatment as a juvenile" (the key finding in Alaska for a transfer to adult court).  On appeal, the Kalmakoff court, in a thoughtful and thorough opinion, noted that nearly all "courts have held that Apprendi does not apply to a juvenile waiver proceeding because it is not a sentencing proceeding, but rather a determination of the court's jurisdiction."  Deciding to follow this authority, the appellate court also give this pragmatic justification for permitting judicial fact-finding in this context:

At oral argument, Kalmakoff conceded that the State could constitutionally establish a procedure where a juvenile would have been automatically prosecuted as an adult or a procedure where a prosecutor could determine whether to prosecute the juvenile as an adult.  (This decision would be similar to a decision which prosecutors make routinely — whether to prosecute an offense as a misdemeanor or a felony.) Under either of these procedures, Kalmakoff would have far fewer procedural protections, such as the right to have a lawyer represent him and the right to present evidence at a hearing in front of a judge, than he does under the current law.  Therefore, Kalmakoff's claim that the current system violates his constitutional rights actually could result in far fewer procedural protections for juveniles facing a waiver of juvenile jurisdiction if the legislature chose to take those actions.  Given this concession, which is sound, the balance that the legislature has chosen appears to us to be rational.  We would only change this balance if we were convinced that the United States or Alaska Constitution required us to change it. Because the great weight of authority supports the constitutionality of the State's juvenile waiver procedure, we uphold it.

October 15, 2005 at 04:55 PM | Permalink


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