may not be cited except as provided by
Minn. Stat § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).
STATE OF MINNESOTA
IN COURT OF APPEALS
In the Matter of the Welfare of S.N.B.,
Filed June 15, 1999
Nobles County District Court
File No. J4-98-50259
Patricia A. Zenner, Megan Hunt, Assistant Tenth District Public Defenders, 1675 South Greeley, Suite 102, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for appellant)
Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101 (for respondent)
Kenneth J. Kohler, Nobles County Attorney, Kathleen A. Kusz, Assistant Nobles County Attorney, 912 Third Avenue South, Worthington, MN 56187 (for respondent)
Douglas Johnson, Washington County Attorney, Government Center, 14900 61st Street North, Stillwater, MN 55082 (for respondent)
Considered and decided by Lansing, Presiding Judge, Crippen, Judge, and Kalitowski, Judge.
In an appeal from a delinquency adjudication, S.N.B. maintains that the district court abused its discretion by declining to stay adjudication without written findings and without consideration of S.N.B.'s best interests. Because the decision whether or not to grant a stay is an adjudication rather than a disposition, the court's findings, including its consideration of S.N.B.'s best interests, are adequate.
Folllowing plea negotiations on first- and second-degree criminal sexual conduct, S.N.B. entered a plea of guilty to an amended charge of fifth-degree criminal sexual conduct for engaging in sexual penetration and contact with two 11-year-old boys. The district court adjudicated 17-year-old S.N.B. delinquent and, consistent with the recommendations of the community corrections office, ordered a disposition of probation until age 19, successful completion of a sexual therapy program at the University of Minnesota, and 40 hours of community service.
S.N.B. agreed with the recommendations of the community corrections office and asked the court to adopt them in its disposition order. S.N.B. did not agree, however, with the district court's adjudicating her delinquent. She requested, instead, that the court withhold adjudication and continue the case, subject to the same conditions that were incorporated into the disposition order. S.N.B. appeals the district court's decision to adjudicate rather than continue the case.
The district court must provide written findings supporting its delinquency disposition, including (a) why the disposition serves the interests of the child; and (b) what alternative dispositions were considered by the court and why the alternative dispositions were inappropriate. Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1 (1998); see also Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05 (incorporating and elaborating these requirements). The district court's order stated that "[b]ased upon matters of record, the statements of [c]ounsel and the [j]uvenile, the [c]ourt finds the disposition * * * to be in the [j]uvenile's best interests and the least restrictive alternative." The court made additional statements on the record explaining the reasons for the disposition. The record also incorporates the report of the community corrections office that discusses and provides background on each of the dispositional requirements.
S.N.B.'s argument on appeal is directed not to the adequacy of the findings for each of the requirements listed in the disposition, but to the district court's failure to make the findings required in Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1, to support the court's decision to adjudicate S.N.B. delinquent rather than continue the case on the conditions listed in the disposition order. But we find nothing in the statute that requires particularized findings on the court's decision to impose or withhold adjudication of delinquency. The dispositions listed in subdivision 1 are separate from the subdivision 3 provisions allowing a court to continue an adjudication. Compare Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1, with Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 3 (1998).
The district court has broad discretion in determining whether to continue an adjudication in a juvenile delinquency proceeding. Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 3; In re Welfare of J.B.A., 581 N.W.2d 37, 39 (Minn. App. 1998), review denied (Minn. Aug. 31, 1998). The court "may" continue adjudication when "it is in the best interests of the child to do so and when the child has admitted the allegations contained in the petition." Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 3; see Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 4(A) ("When it is in the best interests of the child and the protection of the public to do so, the court may continue the case without adjudicating the child."). Imposing an adjudication within the limits prescribed by the legislature is not an abuse of discretion. J.B.A., 581 N.W.2d at 39.
S.N.B.'s circumstances, including an extensive history as a victim of outrageous sexual abuse, emphasize the importance of considering her best interests not only in the disposition but also in the adjudication. See Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 3 (court may continue case when in best interests of child). S.N.B. requested a stay of adjudication to allow her to participate in a Jobs Corps training program. But the court specifically addressed this concern by indicating that if the delinquency adjudication interfered with her acceptance into the program, it would consider a motion to vacate. Although the court is not required to make specific findings on a child's best interests when deciding to adjudicate rather than to continue the case, we note that the adjudication allowed the court to maintain supervision over S.N.B. for over a year and one-half, rather than the six-month maximum available through successive continuances.
The statute and rule provide the court with broad discretion on whether to grant a continuance or adjudicate delinquency. See Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 3; Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.05, subd. 4(A) (court "may" continue adjudication). The underlying presumption of adjudication and the discretionary nature of the rule for continuing adjudication confirm that discretion. The court did not abuse its discretion by declining to continue the case without making specific written findings on why adjudication serves the child's best interests or why alternatives were rejected.