Submitted by the Hendricks County Flyer (Avon):
Q: The Plainfield Police Department held a press conference yesterday to announce they had made arrests in a series of bank robberies. They announced that an 18-year-old was being held in the Hendricks County Jail and two juveniles – ages 16 and 17 – were being held at the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center.
When police were questioned afterwards, they claimed it was their policy not to release the names of juveniles charged with crimes. We contacted them today in another effort to get the names, and they now say that they “have no idea” if the juveniles were even charged and if they’re still being held at the detention center. They also say they will not answer any questions about these juveniles.
As long as it’s not a sex crime, don’t they have to release the names of the juveniles? And can police take kids to a detention center if they haven’t been charged with anything?
A: In this case, police don’t have to release the juveniles’ names, but you can work around that.
Juveniles can be taken to a detention facility and held temporarily without charges. The prosecutor would then review police evidence and either:
• Order their release because he or she doesn’t intend to file a petition alleging juvenile delinquency
• File a petition alleging delinquency, in which case a judge would decide whether they should continue to be held or be released to the custody of their parents.
Regarding releasing juvenile names, it depends on whether they are accused of a crime or the victim of a crime.
Names of crime victims, even if juveniles, should be made available unless it is a sex crime. Juveniles in an auto crash, for instance, should be identified.
If a juvenile is held for a crime, however, police in general don’t have to give more than age and town/city where the juvenile lives. This is at police discretion, so nothing prevents them from releasing the information to someone with interest in work of the police – like the media.
Since Indiana doesn’t believe in secret incarcerations, the detention facility where they are held must make available information about who is being held. [See IC 5-14-3-5(b) of the Access to Public Records Act.]
So you can get names from the detention facility, but be careful to match up names with the incident involved by cross-referencing ages, city and who ordered them to be detained.
You don’t want to accuse the wrong 16-year-old Brownsburg teen of robbery, for example.
If the crimes were committed in Hendricks County, I would assume any petition alleging juvenile delinquency would be filed by the prosecutor in that county. Since they are being held in
Hamilton County, there may be a reason for the petition to be filed in that county by the Hamilton County prosecutor.
In either case, if the petition is based on an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult (such as robbery), the juvenile court hearings are open to the public – similar to an adult criminal court case – and the filing records and certain other records are available for inspection and copying.
So even if police refuse to answer your questions, you have opportunities to follow what’s going on with the juveniles through the courts.
For instance, after you get names from the detention facility of juveniles held on certain days, check filings in juvenile courts for the two counties involved to see if the names match up to the crimes you’re covering.
• Police don’t have to give you names, but they could if they want.
• The detention center does have to provide names of those held and who ordered them held.
• Juvenile court has to open up records and hearings if a prosecutor files a petition alleging juvenile delinquency concerning an act that would be a felony if committed by an adult.
Contact Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel, with media law questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or (317) 624-4427.