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TENNESSEE COMPILATION OF SELECTED LAWS ON CHILDREN, YOUTH AND FAMILIES, 2011 EDITION

TENNESSEE CODE ANNOTATED

RULES OF JUVENILE PROCEDURE

[ADOPTED FEBRUARY 1, 1983; EFFECTIVE JULY 1, 1984]

III. Adjudicatory and Dispositional Hearings.

Rule 28. Adjudicatory Hearing. -

(a) Scope of Hearing. The adjudicatory hearing is the proceeding at which the court determines whether the factual allegations of the petition are true and whether the evidence supports a finding that a child is delinquent, unruly, dependent, neglected or abused, or supports a finding authorizing the termination of parental rights as provided in Rule 39. If any of the above findings are made, the determination of the appropriate disposition is to be made pursuant to a dispositional hearing in accordance with Rules 32 and 33 of these rules or, in termination of parental rights cases, Rule 39.

(b) Beginning Adjudicatory Hearing.

(1) All adjudicatory hearings before the juvenile court shall be conducted in accordance with Tenn. Code Ann. §§ 37-1-124, 37-1-126, 37-1-127, and 37-1-129. At the beginning of each such hearing, the court shall:

(i) Ascertain whether the parties before the court are represented by attorneys;

(ii) Verify the name, age and residence of the child who is the subject of the case, and ascertain the relationship of the parties, each to the other;

(iii) Ascertain whether all necessary parties are present;

(iv) Ascertain whether notice requirements have been complied with, and if not, whether the affected parties knowingly and voluntarily waive compliance;

(v) Explain to the parties the purpose of the hearing and the possible consequences thereof; and

(vi) Explain to the parties their rights as applicable, including the right to an attorney, the right to remain silent, the right to confront and cross-examine witnesses, and the right to subpoena witnesses and present evidence in their own behalf.

(2) If a party before the court is not represented by an attorney, the court shall ascertain whether the party understands the right to an attorney. If the party wishes to retain an attorney, the court shall continue the hearing a reasonable time to allow the party to obtain and consult with an attorney of the party's choosing. If the party wishes an attorney and is indigent or otherwise entitled to an attorney, the court shall appoint an attorney pursuant to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13 or other applicable law to represent such party in all cases, or in which the court in its discretion deems the appointment of an attorney to be appropriate. In such cases the court shall continue the hearing a reasonable time to allow the party to consult with the appointed attorney.

(c) Evidence Admissible. In arriving at its adjudicatory decision, the court shall consider only evidence which has been formally admitted. All testimony shall be under oath and may be in narrative form. The Tennessee law of evidence shall apply to all adjudicatory proceedings, as follows: In delinquent and unruly proceedings, no evidence that would be inadmissible in an adult criminal proceeding shall be admitted. In addition, in a delinquent or unruly case, no statement made by a child to the youth services officer or designated intake officer during the preliminary inquiry and evaluation process, or pursuant to informal adjustment under Rule 14, shall be admissible against the child prior to the dispositional hearing. In all other cases, evidence shall be admitted as provided by the Tennessee Rules of Evidence.

(d) Adjudication of Status, Standard of Proof, and Findings in Delinquent Cases. At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing in a delinquent case, the court shall enter an order in accordance with the following provisions:

(1) If the court is not satisfied that the delinquent charge has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, it shall enter an order dismissing the petition.

(2) If the court is satisfied that the delinquent charge has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt and that the child is in need of treatment and rehabilitation, it shall enter a finding of guilty, fix a time for a dispositional hearing to be held in accordance with Rules 18, 32 and 33 of these rules and, where appropriate, provide for disposition of the child pending the dispositional hearing. However, an out-of-court admission by the child which meets the standards of admissibility set forth herein and which was lawfully obtained, although admissible in evidence, shall be insufficient to support an adjudication that the child is delinquent unless the admission is corroborated in whole or in part by other competent evidence.

(3) If the court is satisfied that the delinquent charge has been proved beyond a reasonable doubt, but that the child is not in need of treatment or rehabilitation, it shall enter an order dismissing the petition. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, evidence of the commission of acts which constitute a felony is sufficient to sustain a finding that the child is in need of treatment or rehabilitation.

(e) Adjudication of Status, Standard of Proof, and Findings in Unruly Cases. At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing in an unruly case, the court shall enter an order in accordance with the following provisions:

(1) If the court is not satisfied that the unruly charge has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, it shall enter an order dismissing the petition.

(2) If the court is satisfied that the unruly charge has been proved by clear and convincing evidence, it shall enter a finding of guilty, fix a time for a dispositional hearing to be held in accordance with Rules 18, 32 and 33 of these rules and, where appropriate, provide for disposition of the child pending the dispositional hearing. However, an out-of-court admission by the child which meets the standards of admissibility set forth herein and which was lawfully obtained, although admissible in evidence, shall be insufficient to support an adjudication that the child is unruly unless the admission is corroborated in whole or in part by other competent evidence.

(f) Adjudication of Status, Standard of Proof, and Findings in Dependent and Neglected Cases.

(1) At the conclusion of the adjudicatory hearing in a dependent and neglected case, the court shall enter an order in accordance with the following provisions:

(i) If the court is not satisfied that the dependent and neglected charge has been proved by clear and convincing evidence (by admission of the allegations or otherwise), it shall enter an order dismissing the petition.

(ii) If the court is satisfied that the dependent and neglected charge has been proved by clear and convincing evidence (by admission of the allegations or otherwise), it shall enter an order adjudicating the child dependent and neglected, fixing a time for a dispositional hearing to be held in accordance with Rules 18, 32 and 33 of these rules and, where appropriate, providing for disposition of the child pending the dispositional hearing.

(iii) If the petition alleged the child was dependent and neglected as defined in Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102(b)(12) or if the court so finds regardless of the grounds alleged in the petition, the court shall determine whether the parents or either of them or another person who had custody of the child committed severe child abuse.

(2) The court shall include in its adjudicatory order, or in a separate document, findings of fact upon which it relies for the adjudication embodied in the order, as required by law. Such findings shall include findings of fact on the issue of abuse if required under section (f)(1)(iii) above, and if so required, shall be filed within thirty (30) days of the close of the hearing or, if an appeal or a petition for certiorari is filed, within five (5) days thereafter, excluding Sundays.

(g) Transfer to Home County for Disposition. The case of an out-of-county resident may be transferred to the child's county of residence for disposition.

(h) Adjudication of Status, Standard of Proof, and Findings in Termination of Parental Rights Cases. Requirements for the adjudication of status, standard of proof, and findings in termination of parental rights cases shall be as provided in Rule 39.

[As amended by order entered January 31, 1984, effective July 1, 1984, by order entered June 25, 1984, by order entered January 28, 1993, effective July 1, 1993; and by order filed January 2, 2007, effective July 1, 2007.]

Advisory Commission Comments.

The definitions in Tenn. Code Ann. § 37-1-102 for “delinquent child” and “unruly child” both include the criterion that the child at issue be “in need of treatment or rehabilitation.” Thus, where a charged offense appears to the court to be an isolated instance and there is no other indication that the child is in such need of treatment or rehabilitation, the committee suggests that dismissal of the case might be appropriate. If the court has developed adequate intake criteria, as discussed in the comment to Rule 8, such cases might be screened out of the formal court process prior to any hearing, pursuant to Rule 12(a). Such cases might be handled by simple warning, counseling and dismissal, or through informal adjustment as provided in Rule 14.

See Rule 30 for further guidance on the issues of the right to, waiver of, and appointment of attorneys.

Advisory Commission Comments [1993].

The former hearsay exception admitting all statements of children concerning abuse is deleted. Instead, children's extrajudicial statements are governed by a specific hearsay exception added as T. R. Evid. 803(25).

The court in certain preliminary and dispositional proceedings, in contrast to adjudicatory hearings, can consider “reliable hearsay.” See T. R. Juv. P. 15(b), 16(a), and 32(f).

Advisory Commission Comments [2007].

The amendment to (a) adds “abused” to the possible findings listed in the first sentence. The amendment to (b)(2) adds a reference to Tennessee Supreme Court Rule 13, which governs the appointment of counsel for indigent persons.

Compiler's Notes.

The amendment of this rule, as promulgated and adopted by the Supreme Court in its order dated January 2, 2007, was ratified and approved by 2007 House Resolution 16 and Senate Resolution 14. The order promulgating the 2007 amendment of this rule provided that it take effect July 1, 2007.

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