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In re F.C.

January 23, 2009

IN THE INTEREST OF F.C., III, A MINOR
APPEAL OF: F.C., III, APPELLANT



Appeal from the Order of June 12, 2007, in the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County, Civil Division at No. Docket No. 1081-07, History No. 67217-C.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Colville, J.

BEFORE: MUSMANNO, DONOHUE and COLVILLE*fn1 JJ.

OPINION

¶ 1 F.C., a minor, appeals the order committing him to involuntary drug and/or alcohol treatment under 71 P.S. § 1690.112a (commitment of minors, "Act 53"). The issues are: (1) whether F.C. was denied due process when, based solely on a petition for involuntary drug treatment, he was detained and subjected to a drug and alcohol assessment in which he was compelled to divulge private information without first being given notice and an opportunity to test the allegations in the petition; (2) whether his right to counsel was infringed when he was assessed without counsel present; (3) whether he was denied due process by being restrained in shackles prior to and during the hearing to determine his involuntary commitment; (4) whether his right to counsel was infringed during the hearing because, being held in restraints, he could not communicate with his counsel.*fn2 We affirm.

Statutory Provisions

¶ 2 The relevant portions of the statutes at issue are as follows:

§ 1690.112a. Commitment of Minors

(a) A parent or legal guardian who has legal or physical custody of a minor may petition the court of common pleas of the judicial district where the minor is domiciled for commitment of the minor to involuntary drug and alcohol treatment services, including inpatient services, if the minor is incapable of accepting or unwilling to accept voluntary treatment. The petition shall set forth sufficient facts and good reason for the commitment. Such matters shall be heard by the division or a judge of the court assigned to conduct proceedings under 42 Pa.C.S. Ch. 63 (relating to juvenile matters), involving children who have been alleged to be dependent or delinquent.

(b) Upon petition pursuant to subsection (a), the court:

(1) Shall appoint counsel for the minor.

(2) Shall order a minor who is alleged to have a dependency on drugs or alcohol to undergo a drug and alcohol assessment performed by a psychiatrist, a licensed psychologist with specific training in drug and alcohol assessment and treatment or a certified addiction counselor. Such assessment shall include a recommended level of care and length of treatment. Assessments completed by certified addiction counselors shall be based on the Department of Health approved drug and alcohol level of care criteria and shall be reviewed by a case management supervisor in a single county authority.

The court shall hear the testimony of the persons performing the assessment under this subsection at the hearing on the petition for involuntary commitment.

(c) Based on the assessment defined in subsection (b), the court may order the minor committed to involuntary drug and alcohol treatment, including inpatient services, for up to forty-five days if all of the following apply:

(1) The court finds by clear and convincing evidence that:

(i) the minor is a drug-dependent person; and (ii) the minor is incapable of accepting or unwilling to accept voluntary treatment services.

(2) The court finds that the minor will benefit from involuntary treatment services.

(3) Where the court decision is inconsistent with the level of care and length of treatment recommended by the assessment, the court shall set forth in its order a ...


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