Schall v. Martin
467 U.S. 253 (1984)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Schall v. Martin, 467 U.S. 253 (1984)

Schall v. Martin

No. 82-1248

Argued January 17, 1984

Decided June 4, 1984

467 U.S. 253

Syllabus

Section 320.5(3)(b) of the New York Family Court Act authorizes pretrial detention of an accused juvenile delinquent based on a finding that there is a "serious risk" that the juvenile "may before the return date commit an act which if committed by an adult would constitute a crime." Appellees, juveniles who had been detained under § 320.5(3)(b), brought a habeas corpus class action in Federal District Court, seeking a declaratory judgment that § 320.5(3)(b) violates, inter alia, the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The District Court struck down the statute as permitting detention without due process and ordered the release of all class members. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that, since the vast majority of juveniles detained under the statute either have their cases dismissed before an adjudication of delinquency or are released after adjudication, the statute is administered, not for preventive purposes, but to impose punishment for unadjudicated criminal acts, and that therefore the statute is unconstitutional as to all juveniles.

Held: Section 320.5(3)(b) is not invalid under the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Pp. 467 U. S. 263-281.

(a) Preventive detention under the statute serves the legitimate state objective, held in common with every State, of protecting both the juvenile and society from the hazards of pretrial crime. That objective is compatible with the "fundamental fairness" demanded by the Due Process Clause in juvenile proceedings, and the terms and condition of confinement under § 320.5(3)(b) are compatible with that objective. Pretrial detention need not be considered punishment merely because a juvenile is subsequently discharged subject to conditions or put on probation. And even when a case is terminated prior to factfinding, it does not follow that the decision to detain the juvenile pursuant to § 320.5(3)(b) amounts to a due process violation. Pp. 467 U. S. 264-274.

Page 467 U. S. 254

(b) The procedural safeguards afforded by the Family Court Act to juveniles detained under § 320.5(3)(b) prior to factfinding provide sufficient protection against erroneous and unnecessary deprivations of liberty. Notice, a hearing, and a statement of facts and reasons are given to the juvenile prior to any detention, and a formal probable cause hearing is then held within a short time thereafter, if the factfinding hearing is not itself scheduled within three days. There is no merit to the argument that the risk of erroneous and unnecessary detention is too high despite these procedures because the standard for detention is fatally vague. From a legal point of view, there is nothing inherently unattainable about a prediction of future criminal conduct. Such a prediction is an experienced one based on a host of variables that cannot be readily codified. Moreover, the post-detention procedures -- habeas corpus review, appeals, and motions for reconsideration -- provide a sufficient mechanism for correcting on a case-by-case basis any erroneous detention. Pp. 467 U. S. 274-281.

689 F.2d 365, reversed.

REHNQUIST, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BURGER, C.J., and WHITE, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and O'CONNOR, JJ., joined. MARSHALL, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BRENNAN and STEVENS, JJ., joined, post, p. 467 U. S. 281.

Page 467 U. S. 255

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