STATE v. NATHANIEL S., SC 19592

Judicial District of Waterbury

 

      Criminal; Juveniles; Whether Public Act Raising Age at Which Cases are Subject to Automatic Transfer from Juvenile Docket to Regular Criminal Docket Applies Retroactively.  The defendant was charged with sexual assault and risk of injury to a child in connection with an incident that occurred on May 5, 2012, when he was fourteen years old.  On August 4, 2014, the defendant’s case was automatically transferred from the juvenile docket to the regular criminal docket of the Superior Court pursuant to General Statutes § 46b-127 (a) (1).  At that time, § 46b-127 (a) (1) required that the case of any child charged with the commission of a class A or B felony be automatically transferred to the regular criminal docket if the offense was committed after the child attained the age of fourteen.  On October 1, 2015, No. 15-183 of the 2015 Public Acts became effective and raised the age at which juvenile cases are subject to automatic transfer under § 46b-127 (a) (1) from fourteen to fifteen years.  The defendant and the state are now at odds as to whether, in light of the act, the defendant’s case should be prosecuted on the regular criminal docket or whether it should be transferred back to the juvenile docket for adjudication.  The matter is now before the Supreme Court on its acceptance of the trial court’s reservation of the following question of law: “Does Public Act 15-183, § 1 apply to the defendant, who is charged with committing Class A and B felonies when he was fourteen years old and had not yet reached the age of fifteen, whose case was transferred to the regular criminal docket of the Superior Court prior to Public Act 15-183’s effective date, but whose case has not yet been adjudicated and will be adjudicated now that Public Act 15-183 has taken effect?”  The state claims that the act applies only prospectively because it constitutes a substantive change in the law that gives fourteen year olds charged with the commission of class A and B felonies a statutory right to juvenile status.  The state also claims that prospective application is consistent with the principle derived from savings statutes that dictate that the law in existence on the date of the offense applies.  Finally, the state contends that retroactive application of the act would violate the separation of powers provision of our state constitution and lead to unworkable results.  The defendant argues that the act should be applied retroactively because it is both procedural and remedial in nature.  He claims that it is procedural because it does not define or regulate criminal conduct but instead implicates the venue where the matter will be heard.  He claims that the act is remedial in that it was enacted in response to an evolving approach to the juvenile justice system which recognizes children’s amenability to rehabilitation and that it was enacted with the purpose of protecting children who commit criminal acts from the irreparable harm that can result from prosecution on the regular criminal docket.