Maine Supreme Court proposes change to juvenile restraint in court

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PORTLAND, Maine — The Maine Supreme Judicial Court is seeking comments from the legal community and the public on a proposed rule change that would limit the shackling of juvenile defendants in criminal cases.

The proposed rule change was posted Tuesday afternoon. Comments are due by Sept. 25.

“It is quite rare today for juveniles to be shackled,” Mary Ann Lynch, spokeswoman for the court system said in an email. “The proposed rule codified what is the most typical practice today.”

Lynch said the court system does not keep statistics on the number of juveniles who are brought into courtrooms shackled versus the number who are not.

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If approved, the rule would prevent a transporting agency, such as a county sheriff’s office, judicial marshal or other designated court security officer from bringing a juvenile into the courtroom wearing any physical restraints or place a juvenile in physical restraints during a juvenile proceeding, except when ordered by the court during or prior to the juvenile’s court appearance in accordance with this rule.

Under the current rules, juveniles who are in custody can be brought into the courtroom as adults are — shackled and handcuffed. Handcuffs usually are removed when the defendant is at the defense table with an attorney.

If approved by the state’s high court, judges would have to consider the following when ordering that a juvenile be shackled or restrained:

– Whether the present behavior of the juvenile creates a current threat to that juvenile’s safety or the safety of others in the courtroom.

– Whether the present behavior of the juvenile creates a substantial risk of flight from the courtroom.

– Whether the juvenile’s recent disruptive courtroom behavior threatens that juvenile’s safety or the safety of others in the courtroom.

– Whether the juvenile’s past behavior creates a substantial risk that the juvenile will threaten that juvenile’s safety or the safety of others in the courtroom.

– Whether there are less restrictive alternatives available to maintain order and safety in the courtroom.

“Through this rule, Maine joins a growing number of states in recognizing that the best practice in juvenile proceedings is to avoid shackling whenever it can be done without compromising the safety of the juvenile or others in the courtroom,” the advisory note said about why the rule change was proposed.

Earlier this year, the American Bar Association passed a resolution urging states to limit the shackling of juveniles.

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