Juvenile sentencing — JOSEPH KOZAK (A MINOR) V. COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY (SC 11/26/2008)

OPINION BY MINTON;  Scott concurs by sep. opinion in which Cunningham
joins; Noble concurs in result only by sep. opinion in which Schroder, Venters
DATE RENDERED: 11/26/2008

This issue here is whether a juvenile may waive the right to a more lenient sentencing disposition under the juvenile code by entering into a plea agreement with the Commonwealth, even if the juvenile is not directly and explicitly informed of the juvenile code rights being waived . Because a proper waiver must be predicated upon the knowing relinquishment of a known right, SC held that a juvenile cannot, under these circumstances, be found to have impliedly waived a right to which the juvenile was not explicitly made aware. 
A juvenile must be fully informed of his rights under the juvenile code by the trial court before the trial court may accept a juvenile's guilty plea. This safeguard should ensure that any juvenile's plea satisfies the requirement that the plea be knowingly and voluntarily made. So in addition to informing the juvenile of the basic rights that any criminal defendant waives by pleading guilty, the trial courts of this Commonwealth must also explain on the record the rights that the juvenile would waive (such as those set forth at KRS 635.060) by persisting in a plea of guilty. In other words, it is the trial court's obligation to make the juvenile fully cognizant of the procedural and substantive differences between being sentenced as an adult and being sentenced as a juvenile (such as the more lenient dispositional alternatives set forth at KRS 635.060) before accepting a plea agreement between the Commonwealth and a juvenile defendant. Although we do not believe it necessary to set forth a verbatim script that trial judges must follow in accepting a juvenile's guilty plea, we hold that the colloquy should follow the same general contours as that engaged in between trial courts and adults who wish to plead guilty, with the additional requirement that the trial court must inform the juvenile that a plea of guilty would waive his rights under the juvenile code (i.e., the right in appropriate cases, such as this one, to be sentenced under the terms of KRS 635.060) .

Digested by Scott C. Byrd

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