Gammons v. Berlat
Arizona Supreme Court
696 P.2d 700 (1985)
A 13-year-old boy (the boy) (defendant) with the mental capacity of a nine- or 10-year-old boy was arrested for sexual conduct with a minor and for sexual abuse. Specifically, the boy had consensual sex with a girl who was 15 years old. For the alleged criminal acts, the boy was charged with delinquency in juvenile court. The juvenile code defined a delinquent act as one that would be a criminal offense if it were committed by an adult. Reference was made to the criminal code in order to identify which acts qualified as delinquent. If the person committing a criminal offense was under the age of 14, the criminal code required a showing of capacity to understand that the act was wrong before the person was held criminally liable. The boy denied that he committed the act charged and asked for a hearing pursuant to A.R.S. § 13-501 of the Arizona criminal code to determine whether he possessed the capacity to understand that his acts were wrong at the time he committed them. The position of the state (plaintiff) was that § 13-501 only applied to children being tried in adult proceedings, not to children in delinquency proceedings in juvenile court. The juvenile code had its own separate capacity provisions for judging juvenile offenders. The boy argued that § 13-501’s presumption that children under 14 lacked the requisite legal capacity for criminal culpability protected children regardless of whether they were charged in juvenile proceedings or in adult court. The question before the Arizona Supreme Court was whether the capacity limitation in the criminal code applied to delinquency proceedings in juvenile court.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Holohan, J.)
Concurrence/Dissent (Feldman, J.)
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