At common law, children under the age of seven are conclusively presumed to be without criminal capacity. Those who have reached the age of 14 are treated as fully responsible, while as to those between the ages of 7 and 14, there is a rebuttable presumption of criminal incapacity.
Juvenile defendant, who was 13 years, 10 months, and 2 weeks of age, was searched at school and 20 zip-lock bags of heroin were on his person. Juvenile defendant was adjudicated delinquent for an act which, if committed by an adult, would have constituted possession of heroin with intent to distribute. On appeal, juvenile defendant contended that the state did not offer legally sufficient evidence to rebut his presumptive incapacity because of infancy and that the search violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Juvenile defendant's adjudication of delinquency was affirmed.
Was the benefit of presumptive incapacity of juvenile defendant overcome by sufficient evidence to the contrary?
The court found that the defense of infancy was available to juvenile defendant because he was under 14 years of age at the time of the offense, but that the presumption was diminished greatly by juvenile defendant's age. Sufficient evidence existed, as inferred by the circumstances of the acts and juvenile defendant's behavior during the proceedings, to overcome the "slight residual weight" of the presumption of incapacity due to infancy. The search met the articulable suspicion standard applicable to schools because defendant's grandmother advised the school that boys were using her home to sell drugs and defendant's friend "snitched" on him.