Protection For Disclosures During Therapy

The Indiana Court of Appeals issued a juvenile delinquency opinion today — State v. I.T., 20A03-1202-JV-76 — that on its face merely concerns whether the State can challenge a juvenile court’s action when the court rescinds an order authorizing the filing of a delinquency opinion.  The answer is: no, the State has no authority to challenge that order.

Many will read the opinion as reinforcing the protections given to the juvenile by IC 31-32-2-2.5.  Specifically, if a court orders the juvenile to participate in a mental health screening, assessment, evaluation, or treatment post-adjudication, the State is generally prevented from using any disclosures given to the treatment provider as the basis for new delinquency allegations.  This most often comes up during treatment of youth for sex offenses.  As part of the typical treatment, the juvenile may be asked to discuss his/her history or participate in a therapeutic polygraph examination, which may disclose additional delinquent acts.

The theory behind the statute is that a child would be put in a catch-22 situation if they are required to be truthful with the treatment provider in order to succeed in treatment and be rehabilitated, but if that truthfulness reveals new delinquent acts, the child would face new allegations and possibly a harsher disposition/punishment.  With the protection of IC 31-32-2-2.5, the child can participate in treatment without fear of further actions by the State.  Thus, the rehabilitative goal of the juvenile court is met.

There is a similar statute, IC 31-37-8-4.5, that applies to information disclosed during preadjudication mental health screenings.

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