Juvenile Law Center

July 21, 2004
Superior Court of Pennsylvania
Opinion By: 
Todd, J

Juvenile Courts Abuse Their Discretion When They Adopt Blanket Policies of Dismissing De Minimus Cases (Companion Case of In the Interest of M.M)

R.W., a 16-year-old, was arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance (marijuana). At the adjudicatory hearing the trial court dismissed the delinquency petition stating he refused to try cases which involve the sole possession of marijuana. Although the Commonwealth proffered that a subsequent laboratory analysis determined that R.W. also possessed cocaine, there were no allegations in the delinquency petition that R.W. possessed anything more than a small quantity of marijuana. Following the trial court’s dismissal, the Commonwealth filed a motion for reconsideration and requested the trial judge recuse himself from this case and other similar matters on the grounds that he could not impartially consider cases involving possession of small amounts of marijuana. The trial court refused and the Commonwealth appealed.

The Superior Court vacated the trial court’s dismissal order, reinstated the delinquency petition and directed the matter be heard before another juvenile court judge. Using nearly identical language and reasoning as it employed in In the Interest of M.M. (Pennsylvania Superior Court, July 21, 2004), the Court held the trial court abused its discretion by adopting a blanket policy to dismiss cases where defendants are charged with criminal possession of small amounts of controlled substances.

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