Playing Doctor, 10-Year-Old Girl Charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault

As reported by New York Daily News, a 10-year-old Houston girl faces charges of aggravated sexual assault after playing doctor with a young boy in her apartment complex.

The girl — identified as “Ashley” — was playing with other children in her apartment complex’s courtyard in April when a witness reported that she inappropriately touched a 4-year-old boy “in his private area,” according to Fox affiliate KRIV.

The family contends Ashley, who was 9 at the time of the incident, is innocent.

It wasn’t until two months later in June when the Houston Police Department began investigating the case.

The then 9-year-old spent four nights in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center, after the sex crimes unit denied Ashley’s mother the opportunity to attend the 45-minute interview between the girl and authorities.

The charging and detention of ten-year-old Ashley presents a number of procedural questions that have plagued the juvenile justice system since its creation. Title 3 of the Texas Family Code, the Juvenile Justice Code, provides that children, under the age of 10, cannot be charged with or punished for criminal acts. Nine years old when the incident occurred, Ashley falls outside the jurisdiction of the juvenile court, which calls for the accused to be ten-years-old at the time of the alleged offense.

Along with questions of jurisdiction, Ashley was detained for four nights in the Harris County Juvenile Detention Center. The juvenile court typically reserves detention as a last resort for particularly problematic or violent offenders. Ashley, playing doctor, allegedly touched another child inappropriately. But the Houston Police Department (“HPD”) waited two months before investigating charges against Ashley, indicating that HPD didn’t view Ashley as a dangerous or imminent threat to society.

Finally, HPD did not allow Ashley’s mother to accompany her during a 45-minute interview between the girl and authorities. While the Texas Family Code provides that the child must explicitly request counsel, it does not account for the presence of a parent. Ashley, a ten-year-old, couldn’t be expected to request or even ascertain the need for counsel.

The issues of jurisdiction and detention make this case ripe for investigation. Hopefully, this young girl will get the justice she deserves, while also being appropriately punished for the alleged offense.

Monday’s Children and the Law News Roundup

Researchers Examine Youth Delinquency and Violence in Denver, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange

The initial results from a study analyzing youth violence in a small Denver neighborhood finds that the roots of adolescent delinquency may be found in tumultuous, early home-life experiences.

In February, researchers at the University of Colorado’s Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence released findings from the first year of a five-year analysis of Denver’s Montbello neighborhood. With data for more than 2,000 local students culled from surveys, in tandem with almost 700 Montbello resident interviews, researchers determined that two-out-of-five young people in the area had been involved in delinquent activity within a 12-month period, with 6 percent of the youth population saying they had tried drugs before becoming teenagers.

Neb. Court Rejects Off-Campus Search of Student Vehicle, Education Week

A search by school officials of a student’s vehicle while it was parked just off campus was unreasonable under the Fourth Amendment, Nebraska’s highest court has ruled.

The search had turned up drug paraphernalia, leading to a 19-day suspension for a Millard West High School student identified in court papers as J.P.

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled 5-1 that school officials exceeded their authority under state law when they concluded that a student driving to and from school without parking on school grounds gave them a sufficient nexus to school activities to subject the student to discipline based on that activity.

Juvenile Justice Overhaul Caries Additional Cost, forsyth News

Forsyth County Juvenile Court and the local finance committee used a Wednesday budget meeting to grapple with how to budget for new statewide requirements.

Gov. Nathan Deal signed a juvenile justice reform bill into law on May 2 that rewrites and reorganizes the law.

The 250-page bill is a “complete overhaul of the juvenile code,” said Juvenile Court Judge Russell Jackson.

Those new requirements take effect with the start of 2014, but the impact to the county’s budget hasn’t been determined.