OPINION OF THE COURT
JACQUELINE B. DEANE, J.
The respondent, Kenroy C., was arrested at the age of 14 and charged as a juvenile delinquent having committed acts that would be crimes if committed by an adult. The petition was filed on August 11, 2016, and on November 22, 2016, Kenroy appeared before this court with his mother and made an admission to reckless endangerment in the second degree, a class A misdemeanor. The court ordered an investigation and report (I & R) to be prepared by the Probation Department and adjourned the case for disposition. The I & R was submitted on January 3, 2017 and recommends that the respondent receive an adjournment in contemplation of dismissal (ACD) for six months with a referral to prosocial programs based on a number of factors including that this was the respondent's first delinquency finding and that the probation dispositional risk assessment instrument known as the Youth Level of Service (YLS) rated the respondent as low risk for recidivism. The presentment agency submitted a letter from the victim, Ms. I., describing the impact of the incident on her and the bills for which Ms. I. was requesting restitution. The court then held a
The presentment agency's position at disposition is that the least restrictive alternative for the respondent is an ACD with the condition that the respondent pay some portion of the restitution for medical expenses and clothing that the victim is requesting. The Attorney for the Child has argued for an ACD with no restitution given the very limited income of, and financial strains on, the respondent's family. When the court asked both counsel to address the required threshold statutory dispositional question of whether the respondent was in need of supervision, treatment or confinement, the presentment agency argued that the question should be answered in the affirmative and the respondent in the negative.
The purpose of Family Court delinquency proceedings is to
The dispositional scheme of article 3 encapsulates this essential difference between juvenile delinquency and adult criminal prosecutions in the language of Family Court Act § 352.1. That part of the statute sets forth that a juvenile delinquency adjudication is a twofold process where the entry of a fact-finding, whether after trial or admission, is only the first step. In order for the adjudication to occur, the court must make an
The fact that this threshold dispositional requirement exists makes clear that the mere fact that a child commits a delinquent act is not enough to establish the need for the court's intervention. Rather, the act may simply have been a result of the youth's age and lack of maturity — one of the many "mistakes" that children make simply because they are children and not because there is any particular need for treatment or supervision, much less confinement, beyond that which can be provided by the child's family, school and community. Just as children are generally expected to learn from their non-criminal childhood mistakes without judicial support, the statute recognizes that even when the mistake satisfies the elements of a crime, it does not necessarily need to be addressed differently.
In this case, there are a number of factors contained in the I & R that support a conclusion that the respondent is not in need of treatment, supervision or confinement pursuant to Family Court Act § 352.1 (2). First, this is Kenroy's first contact with the juvenile justice system and he is over 15 years old. This incident happened in June 2016, over eight months ago, and the respondent has had no subsequent arrests since then. Kenroy has excellent school attendance both this year and all past semesters, averaging in the mid-90% attendance range and is passing all his classes.
The fact-finding here is for misdemeanor reckless endangerment where Kenroy was playing with a type of fireworks known as a Roman candle. The use of illegal fireworks around the July 4th holiday is the quintessential type of "risky" behavior that adolescents are known for and is consistent with their brain development.
In her letter, Ms. I. describes coming home from work and passing a typical summertime evening scene of a group of teenage boys joking and horsing around on the sidewalk. The focus of their play was the Roman candle. Ms. I. decided to sit on the curb to look for something in her bag. At that moment, a passing police car stopped suddenly, causing the kids to scatter and the one with the roman candle happened to run in Ms. I.'s direction. According to the allegations in the petition, the respondent dropped the firework while running, apparently resulting in the freak occurrence of the sparks from the fireworks ricocheting off a nearby building and hitting Ms. I. It is clear from the victim's statement, that Ms. I. was traumatized by this incident both because of the random nature in which it occurred and the injuries that she unfortunately suffered as a result. There is nothing this court can do to erase those consequences. The court did suggest that the victim engage in a restorative justice conference with the respondent, which Kenroy was willing to do, and which the court believes at least has the potential to offer Ms. I. some emotional healing around this event.
Aside from restitution, the dispositional outcomes Ms. I. requests in her statement are that the respondent acknowledge the distress he caused her and receive some form of consequence. The court finds that both of these outcomes have already occurred. As noted above, Kenroy has recognized and taken responsibility for the harm he caused on multiple occasions. Additionally, the court required that Kenroy read, with his counsel, the victim impact statement written by the complainant. Kenroy also experienced the consequences of being arrested and prosecuted in this court, which required multiple court appearances by both himself and his mother. The emotional and psychological stress of this on an adolescent boy with no prior contact with the juvenile justice system is significant. The court finds that Kenroy has sufficiently learned from the totality of this experience about the dangers of illegal fireworks and the harm that can result from them such that a delinquency finding at this time serves no lawful purpose. The court finds that the impact of having this case pending for eight months, along with reading about the victim's first-hand experience, have been sufficient interventions to serve the Family Court's goal of placing Kenroy on a successful path towards adulthood and therefore there is no need for any further court intervention or oversight at this time.
As there was insufficient evidence adduced at the dispositional hearing to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence