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decided: May 8, 1970.


Petition for writ of certiorari in case of Commonwealth ex rel. Donald Sprowal v. Edward J. Hendrick.


Edwin D. Wolf, for petitioner.

James D. Crawford, Deputy District Attorney, and Arlen Specter, District Attorney, for Commonwealth.

Bell, C. J., Jones, Cohen, Eagen, O'Brien, Roberts and Pomeroy, JJ. Opinion by Mr. Justice Roberts.

Author: Roberts

[ 438 Pa. Page 436]

Donald Sprowal and four other youths were arrested on March 21, 1970, and charged with assault with intent to kill and lesser related crimes. Two of the five were over eighteen years of age and, therefore, charged as adults. These two received preliminary hearings and were released on $500 bail. The two other juveniles and Donald were ordered held in custody by a juvenile probation officer pending their intake interview. All three were interviewed on March 23, and identical delinquency petitions were filed against them. The next day the three appeared in juvenile court for

[ 438 Pa. Page 437]

    a detention hearing, at which time the judge ordered all three detained, appointed the Voluntary Defender to represent them, and scheduled a certification hearing for April 6.

At the certification hearing only Donald and one of the other juveniles were present, the third having been quarantined at the Youth Study Center. The two were told that the Commonwealth's witnesses were not available and that the case would be continued. Donald's counsel then requested a "probable cause hearing," which request was granted.

At the "probable cause hearing," held two days later, there was testimony introduced which the judge found sufficient to sustain the proceedings. At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge released the other two juveniles into the custody of their parents but ordered Donald held, stating that he did not want to countermand the determination of the judge who had ordered Donald's detention at the March 24 hearing. The following day, April 9, the judge who had ordered Donald detained on March 24 told Donald's counsel that he had no objection to Donald's release. Counsel then appeared before the judge who conducted the probable cause hearing and requested Donald's release. The request was denied, apparently because the judge had reason to believe that some other juveniles, including Donald's released co-defendant, had been in the vicinity of the courthouse the day before and had threatened retaliation for the court's failure to release Donald. This reason, however, does not appear of record, but was presented to the Court at oral argument.

An appeal from the refusal to release and a petition for habeas corpus were then filed in the Superior Court, which dismissed the appeal as interlocutory and denied the habeas corpus petition on its merits. On the day of the denial an original petition for habeas corpus was filed in this Court. We have taken jurisdiction in order

[ 438 Pa. Page 438]

    to clarify the procedures which govern the preadjudicatory release of juvenile defendants. Commonwealth ex rel. Paylor v. Claudy, 366 Pa. 282, 77 A.2d 350 (1951). The case is remanded to the Court of Common Pleas, Family Court Division, for a hearing and determination of the reasons for the continued custody of the petitioner.

In the normal course of events, a juvenile who has not yet had an adjudicatory hearing is released into the custody of a responsible party, usually his or her parents.*fn1 This is no doubt attributable at least in part to the fact that juveniles normally have only limited mobility, and we fully expect that there will be no reduction in the high percentage of juveniles who are currently so released. As with adults, however, certain restrictive or coercive measures may be proper if they are necessary to insure the appearance of the juvenile at subsequent proceedings. Such measures should be utilized, however, only when the hearing court reasonably determines that there is no other less coercive method whereby future attendance can be reasonably assured and places the reasons for this finding on the record.

Unlike an adult, however, a juvenile may be detained by the juvenile court for reasons other than the

[ 438 Pa. Page 439]

    necessity of guaranteeing his presence at future proceedings. If a juvenile does not have a home with his parents or other responsible party, or is in need of protective custody, or is in need of psychiatric help or should have psychological testing and evaluation, he or she may be detained for such protective purposes before there is an adjudication of delinquency. The judge who orders such detention must, however, specifically find that the detention is necessary and must have support for the order in the record developed at the preadjudicatory hearing. Additionally, the detention must be tailored to the justification.*fn2

In the instant case, the reason for Donald's detention does not appear on the record. Since we cannot be certain Donald's continued detention is proper under the principles set forth above, we herewith vacate the detention order and remand the matter to the juvenile court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.


Order of detention vacated and matter remanded to juvenile court.

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