This appeal addressed whether a minor’s Fifth Amendment privilege against compulsory self-incrimination was violated when a juvenile court granted the Commonwealth’s request to have a delinquency matter transferred to an adult court for criminal prosecution, based in part upon the minor’s decision not to admit culpability to the delinquent acts alleged.
When he was fifteen years old, the Commonwealth filed a delinquency petition alleging the defendant committed numerous delinquent acts purportedly stemming from recurring incidents of sexual assault of his then-eleven-year-old foster brother. After a hearing, the case was certified to the adult criminal court. After a jury trial, the defendant was convicted of rape of a child and sentenced to ten to twenty-five years. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the protections of the Fifth Amendment are applicable to juvenile transfer proceedings. When faced with a critical decision such as whether to certify a juvenile for transfer to an adult court for prosecution, a court may not condition its ruling upon the minor’s assertions of innocence or invocation of the Fifth Amendment. Moreover, “the Juvenile Act does not countenance the drawing of an adverse inference from a juvenile’s refusal to admit to the offenses with which the juvenile is charged.” The Act does not provide a guarantee of immunity to displace the Fifth Amendment privilege in juvenile transfer proceedings.