This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (2000).







In the Matter of the Welfare of: J.D.S., Child.



Filed October 8, 2002


Anderson, Judge


Washington County District Court

File No. 8216317Y


John Stuart, State Public Defender, Charlann Elizabeth Winking, Assistant Public Defender, 2829 University Avenue SE, Suite 600, Minneapolis, MN  55414 (for appellant J.D.S.)


Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 525 Park Street, Suite 500, St. Paul, MN  55103; and


Douglas H. Johnson, Washington County Attorney, Richard D. Allen, Assistant County Attorney, 14949 62nd Street North, P.O. Box 6, Stillwater, MN  55082 (for respondent state)


            Considered and decided by Peterson, Presiding Judge, Anderson, Judge, and Hudson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D  O P I N I O N


            The district court designated appellant-juvenile J.D.S. as an extended jurisdiction juvenile (EJJ), finding that appellant had rebutted the presumption of adult certification.  After the designation, appellant pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting terroristic threats.  In accordance with appellant’s EJJ designation, the court imposed and stayed a criminal sentence and entered a juvenile disposition.  Appellant claims that the district court’s juvenile disposition was an abuse of discretion.  We affirm. 


            In March 2001, appellant-juvenile J.D.S., another juvenile, S.H., and an adult allegedly shot S.H.’s mother with a CO2-powered BB gun numerous times, shot holes in and spray-painted her home, and struck S.H.’s mother with a belt. 

            Appellant was arrested and, pursuant to a delinquency petition, was charged with aiding and abetting: (1) second-degree assault, a violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.05, 609.11, 609.222 (2000); (2) terroristic threats, a violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.05, 609.713, subd. 1 (2000); and (3) first-degree criminal damage to property, a violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.05, 609.595, subd. 1(3) (2000).

            Prosecutors moved to certify appellant as an adult, and a certification hearing was held.  On July 17, 2001, the district court denied the prosecution’s certification motion, found that public safety would be best served by exercising extended juvenile jurisdiction over appellant, and designated appellant as an extended jurisdiction juvenile (EJJ).[1] 

            In exchange for dismissal of the other charges, appellant pleaded guilty to the terroristic-threats charge.  Washington County court services issued an EJJ disposition/sentencing report, which recommended that appellant be committed to the Red Wing correctional facility.  The district court held a dispositional hearing.  The court imposed and stayed a criminal sentence of one-year-and-one-day and imposed a juvenile disposition.  The juvenile disposition was commitment to the Red Wing facility for successful completion of the facility’s program.  This appeal followed. 


Appellant claims that the district court’s juvenile disposition is an abuse of discretion because the disposition: (1) was not necessary to return appellant to law-abiding conduct; and (2) does not serve appellant’s best interests. 

We will affirm a district court’s delinquency disposition “[a]bsent a clear abuse of discretion.”  In re Welfare of J.A.J., 545 N.W.2d 412, 414 (Minn. App. 1996) (citation omitted).  “Findings of fact in the dispositional order will be accepted unless clearly erroneous.”  Id. (citation omitted).

A district court ordering out-of-home placement is required to make findings of fact that show: (1) why public safety is served by the disposition; (2) why the best interests of the child are served by the disposition; (3) what alternative dispositions were recommended to the court and why such recommendations were not adopted; (4) why the child’s present custody is not acceptable; and (5) how correctional placement meets the child’s needs.  Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1(m) (2000); Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(A).

“Written findings are essential to meaningful appellate review.”  In re Welfare of N.T.K., 619 N.W.2d 209, 211 (Minn. App. 2000) (citation omitted).  “Findings are also required to show that the district court considered vital standards and to enable the parties to understand the court’s decision.”  Id. (citing In re Welfare of L.K.W., 372 N.W.2d 392, 400-01 (Minn. App. 1985)).  Failure to make sufficient findings constitutes reversible error.  Id. at 211-12.

A.            Necessity of Disposition

            A delinquency disposition is lawful only if it is necessary to rehabilitate the child.  In re Welfare of M.R.S., 400 N.W.2d 147, 151 (Minn. App. 1987).  Two considerations bear on the issue of necessity: public safety and proportionality, which requires that the disposition be the “least restrictive action consistent with the child’s circumstances.”  Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(B)(1)(b). 

            The record demonstrates that the district court considered public safety, and its public-safety findings support its disposition.  The district court found that appellant’s actions satisfied two aggravating factors under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines.  First, appellant’s actions were performed over a four-day period with a group of three or more persons, who all participated in the crime.  Second, the court found that appellant’s actions were particularly cruel.  See Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.D.2.b(2) (cruelty as an aggravating factor), II.D.2.b(10) (committing crime with group of three or more persons as an aggravating factor); see also Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(B)(1)(a)(i) (stating that district court should consider aggravating factors under the Minnesota Sentencing Guidelines when assessing risk to public safety). 

            Next, the district court found that appellant “actively and willingly participated in the crime and that [the crime’s] four day duration demonstrates that the crime was not one of impulse or spontaneity.”  See Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 2(B)(1)(a)(ii) (directing district court to consider culpability of child when assessing risk to public safety). 

Finally, the court addressed appellant’s record of delinquency and his willingness to participate meaningfully in available programming.  The court found that appellant “has a history of conduct problems, [and] poor response to educational programming.”  The district court considered appellant’s failure to take full advantage of an educational transition program after appellant withdrew from school.  Because the district court made the requisite findings and the record supports those findings, we conclude the district court more than adequately considered public safety when it ordered an out-of-home placement. 

            The second consideration in assessing the necessity of an out-of-home placement is proportionality.  A disposition resulting in an out-of-home placement must be supported by evidence that the placement is “the least drastic step necessary to restore law-abiding conduct in the juvenile.”  In re Welfare of M.R.S., 400 N.W.2d at 151 (citation omitted). 

            Here, the district court considered several alternatives to the Red Wing placement; including the Anoka County Juvenile Center; Greyhill Academy in Sioux City, Iowa; Glen Mills Academy in Pennsylvania; electronic-home monitoring; and community work-service hours.  The court determined that the alternatives to Red Wing were unsuitable because: (1) some of the programs require a high level of intellectual functioning, which appellant does not possess; (2) some programs admit only younger children, but appellant was already over 18; (3) some programs require a stay that was either too long or too short; and (4) some programs do not provide the transitional or vocational programming appellant needed because of his age.  The court rejected home monitoring and community service because those programs would minimize the severity of appellant’s conduct and would afford him little, if any, hope of obtaining the skills necessary to rehabilitate himself.  The court considered the recommendation of the case planning team of Washington County Court Services, which stated that the appropriate disposition was to place appellant at Red Wing.  Finally, the district court found that, “[n]o non-secure placement is available in the juvenile system [for appellant] given his age.”

            Therefore, the district court did consider less-restrictive alternatives and found each to be lacking.  The court did not abuse its discretion by entering a disposition that placed appellant at the Red Wing facility. 

B.         Best Interests of the Child

            Appellant also claims that the disposition placing him at Red Wing was an abuse of discretion because it does not serve his best interests.  A district court must make findings detailing why its disposition will serve the best interests of the child.  See Minn. Stat. § 260B.198, subd. 1(m)(1).  The district court addressed each of appellant’s needs and stated why a placement at Red Wing would meet each of those needs.  First, the district court found that appellant had special-educational needs and that Red Wing would offer him the opportunity to increase his educational level.  Second, the district court found that appellant had a poor employment history and that Red Wing had “an extensive vocational system which will provide him the skills necessary to become a productive member of society.”  In addition, the district court found that Red Wing offers a transitional program, which will help appellant find a job once his participation in the program ends. 

            Finally, the district court found that a placement at Red Wing served appellant’s best interests because his present custody situation was inappropriate.  Appellant was living with his mother, did not have a job, and was allowed to reside at a friend’s house, with his whereabouts unaccounted for.  Therefore, Red Wing could provide the structure appellant needed in his life. 

            The district court made the requisite findings, and those findings support its conclusion that appellant’s best interests would be served by a placement at Red Wing.  Therefore, we hold the district court did not abuse its broad discretion by ordering such a disposition. 


[1] An EJJ prosecution is a combination of juvenile and adult criminal dispositions that extends jurisdiction over a child to age twenty-one and permits the district court to impose both a juvenile disposition and a criminal sentence.  See Minn. Stat. § 260B.130, subd. 4 (2000).  Execution of the adult sentence remains stayed if the offender does not violate the provisions of the juvenile disposition and does not commit a new offense.  Id.  The district court designated appellant as an EJJ after holding the adult-certification hearing.  At that hearing, appellant specifically requested the district court consider and grant an EJJ designation, and appellant does not challenge the designation on appeal.