This opinion will be unpublished and

may not be cited except as provided by

Minn. Stat. § 480A.08, subd. 3 (1998).

STATE OF MINNESOTA

IN COURT OF APPEALS

C5-99-10

In the Matter of the Welfare of:

B.A.L., Child.

Filed July 27, 1999

Reversed

Halbrooks, Judge

Brown County District Court

File No. J9-98-50138

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

Mike Hatch, Attorney General, 1400 NCL Tower, 445 Minnesota Street, St. Paul, MN 55101; and

James R. Olson, Brown County Attorney, Kari J. Johnson, Assistant County Attorney, PO Box 428, New Ulm, MN 56073-0428 (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Halbrooks, Presiding Judge, Schumacher, Judge, and Amundson, Judge.

U N P U B L I S H E D   O P I N I O N

HALBROOKS, Judge

Appellant challenges the juvenile court's disposition order, arguing the court lacked jurisdiction to order disposition after appellant became 19 years old. Because we conclude the court's jurisdiction terminated when appellant turned 19, we reverse.

FACTS

On January 2, 1997, appellant and four friends stole four snowmobiles. The group had obtained a universal key for snowmobiles, and they drove around looking for snowmobiles to steal. When they found a snowmobile, they drove it to a common point and hid it. Eventually, they collected four snowmobiles that they then drove to a friend's farm. The police found the snowmobiles in May 1997.

Respondent filed a petition on April 13, 1998, alleging appellant delinquent for aiding and abetting felony theft of a snowmobile in violation of Minn. Stat. §§ 609.52, subd. 2(17) and 609.05 (1996). Appellant pleaded not guilty and requested a trial. Trial was set for August 7, 1998, but appellant failed to appear. A warrant was issued, appellant appeared on August 10, 1998, and the trial was rescheduled for October 30, 1998. After the trial, the court found appellant committed the offense alleged, ordered an updated probation report, and scheduled a disposition hearing for November 23, 1998.

Appellant became 19 years old on November 9, 1998, while awaiting disposition. The disposition hearing was eventually held on November 30, 1998. The court then adjudicated appellant delinquent, ordered him to pay restitution of $9,338.14 on a joint and several basis with his accomplices, and ordered him to pay a $6,000 fine, $1,200 surcharge, and $5 library fine.[1]

Appellant moved to vacate the disposition for lack of jurisdiction because appellant was 19 years old. The trial court denied the motion and this appeal followed.

D E C I S I O N

Whether jurisdiction exists is a question of law which this court reviews de novo. State v. Behl, 564 N.W.2d 560, 563 (Minn. 1997). The juvenile court has original and exclusive jurisdiction over proceedings concerning anyone alleged to have been a delinquent prior to becoming 18 years old. Minn. Stat. § 260.111, subd. 1 (1998). Unless the person falls under a statutory exception, juvenile court jurisdiction terminates when the person becomes 19 years old. Minn. Stat. § 260.181, subd. 4(a) (1998); In re Welfare of K.A.S, 585 N.W.2d 71, 75 (Minn. App. 1998).

Minn. Stat. § 260.181, subd. 4(e) (1998) sets out an exception to the general rule of termination of jurisdiction at age 19 and provides in relevant part:

The juvenile court has jurisdiction over a person who has been adjudicated delinquent until the person's 21st birthday if the person fails to appear at any juvenile court hearing or fails to appear at or absconds from any placement under a juvenile court order. * * * The juvenile court lacks jurisdiction under this paragraph if the adult demonstrates that the delay was purposefully caused by the state in order to gain an unfair advantage.

Respondent contends that appellant's failure to appear for trial on August 7, 1998, is sufficient to extend jurisdiction under the statute. But, as appellant argues, the statute's plain language only provides for extension of juvenile jurisdiction for failure to appear at a juvenile court hearing when the person "has been adjudicated delinquent." Minn. Stat. § 260.181, subd. 4(e). The provision prevents a delinquent from avoiding his or her disposition by avoiding revocation and/or review hearings or absconding from a court-ordered placement. It does not, however, provide for a general extension of juvenile court jurisdiction for any child who misses a court hearing at any stage in the proceeding. The juvenile court erred by imposing appellant's disposition after its jurisdiction had terminated.

Respondent argues that appellant's failure to appear for the August 7 trial significantly affected the outcome of the case, but that result was not necessary. The court could have conducted the disposition hearing immediately following trial. Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.04, subd. 1; see also Minn. R. Juv. P. 15.03, subd. 1 (making pre-disposition investigations and evaluations optional). Respondent also contends appellant should not be able to avoid consequences because of a "procedural technicality." Although the legislature's jurisdictional parameters for juvenile court may be procedural and technical, they are not optional.

Furthermore, although extended jurisdiction is not justified based on age alone, In re Welfare of Dahl, 278 N.W.2d 316, 320-21 (Minn. 1979), respondent nonetheless could have requested that the proceeding be designated an extended jurisdiction juvenile prosecution. Minn. Stat. § 260.126, subd. 1(3) (1998); see also Minn. Stat. § 260.125, subd. 2b. (1998) (setting forth public safety factors relevant to a decision on adult reference or extended jurisdiction juvenile, including adequacy of programming/punishment available in juvenile system and dispositional options available).[2] At the time the petition was filed, appellant was less than six months from his 19th birthday. Under these circumstances, the amount of time remaining under the juvenile court's jurisdiction was an important factor.

As this court recognized in In re Welfare of C.A.N., the alternatives existing after expiration of juvenile court jurisdiction are unsatisfactory. In re Welfare of C.A.N., 370 N.W.2d 438, 442 (Minn. App. 1985). But while the juvenile court lacks jurisdiction to impose formal sanctions after the offender has reached 19, the court may nevertheless formally adjudicate delinquency. Id. at 443. This adjudication process is not meaningless; the adjudication can increase the offender's criminal history index and thus increase the severity of sentences for future offenses. See Minn. Stat. § 260.161, subd. 1 (1998) (releasing records to a requesting adult court for sentencing purposes); Minn. Sent. Guidelines II.B.4 (providing an offender will be assigned one criminal history point for every two felonies committed as a juvenile). This was the only option the juvenile court had remaining after appellant turned 19. Accordingly, we vacate the disposition only, leaving the delinquency adjudication to stand.

Reversed.

[1] Appellant argues and respondent concedes that the fine was outside the dispositional options available to the court. The maximum fine that may be imposed is $700. Minn. Stat. § 260.185, subd. 1(f) (1998).

[2] While the record is not absolutely clear, the probation report does indicate appellant had previous adjudications for receiving stolen property (felony/misdemeanor level not stated), second-degree burglary (x 2), and possession of controlled substance (degree not stated). The report also indicates a programming history including two out-of-home placements.