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In re I.F.M.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourteenth District

July 18, 2017


         On Appeal from County Court at Law No. 2 Fort Bend County, Texas Trial Court Cause No. 14-CJV-019259

          Panel consists of Chief Justice Frost, Justice Donovan, and Justice Wise.



         Appellant was adjudicated as a juvenile for engaging in delinquent conduct by committing the offense of theft of property. Appellant challenges the adjudication of the offense, arguing the "evidence adduced at trial is legally insufficient." We affirm.

         I. Procedural Background

         The State filed an original petition asserting that on October 5, 2014, appellant engaged in delinquent conduct by unlawfully appropriating make-up of the value of $50 or more, but less than $500, from Vivian Hernandez, the loss prevention officer at the J.C. Penney store in First Colony Mall, Sugar Land, Texas. At the time the delinquent conduct was alleged to have occurred, appellant was fifteen years old.

         An adjudication hearing was conducted. Appellant pleaded "not true." On July 15, 2015, a jury returned a verdict of "true." The trial court then conducted a disposition hearing. On July 20, 2015, the trial court entered its order of disposition for six months' probation and conditions of probation. Appellant timely moved for a new trial, alleging the verdict was contrary to the law and the evidence. The trial court denied the motion, and this appeal followed.

         II. Adjudication of a Juvenile and Standard of Review

         Under the Texas Family Code, juvenile justice courts have jurisdiction over all cases involving delinquent conduct by a person who was a child at the time the person engaged in the conduct. Tex. Fam. Code § 51.04(a). A "child" is a person who is ten years of age or older and under seventeen years of age. Id. § 51.02(2). Delinquent conduct is defined, among other things, as "conduct, other than a traffic offense, that violates a penal law of this state or of the United States punishable by imprisonment or by confinement in jail." Id. § 51.03(a)(1).

         In a juvenile proceeding, the trial court must conduct an adjudication hearing for the fact-finder to determine whether the juvenile engaged in delinquent conduct. Tex. Fam. Code § 54.03. If the fact-finder determines that the juvenile engaged in delinquent conduct, the trial court must then conduct a disposition hearing. Id. § 54.03(h). "Disposition is akin to sentencing and 'is used to honor the non-criminal character of the [juvenile] proceedings.' " In re B.D.S.D., 289 S.W.3d 889, 893 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2009, pet. ref'd) (quoting In re K.T., 107 S.W.3d 65, 67 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2003, no pet.)), cert. denied, 131 S.Ct. 1485 (2011). An order of adjudication or disposition of a child generally does not constitute a criminal conviction. See Tex. Fam. Code § 51.13(a).

         Although juvenile cases are classified as civil proceedings, they are "quasi-criminal" in nature. In re M.A.F., 966 S.W.2d 448, 450 (Tex. 1998); see In re L.D.C., 400 S.W.3d 572, 574 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013). Civil and criminal rules apply at different stages of the same proceeding. See In re K.H., 169 S.W.3d 459, 462 (Tex. App.-Texarkana 2005, no pet.); see also Tex. Fam. Code § 51.17. The burden of proof at the adjudication hearing is the beyond-a-reasonable-doubt standard applicable to criminal cases. Id. § 54.03(f). Therefore, we review the sufficiency of the evidence to support a finding that a juvenile engaged in delinquent conduct using the standard applicable to criminal cases. See In re R.R., 373 S.W.3d 730, 734 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2012, pet. denied); In re G.A.T., 16 S.W.3d 818, 828 (Tex. App.-Houston [14th Dist.] 2000, pet. denied).

         Accordingly, when reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, we consider all of the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict to determine whether, based on that evidence and the reasonable inferences therefrom, a jury was rationally justified in finding guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In re R.R., 373 S.W.3d at 734- 35 (citing Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19 (1979)); accord Temple v. State, 390 S.W.3d 341, 360 (Tex. Crim. App. 2013); Isassi v. State, 330 S.W.3d 633, 638 (Tex. Crim. App. 2010). This standard of review applies to cases involving both direct and circumstantial evidence. In re R.R., 373 S.W.3d at 735. Although we consider everything presented at trial, we do not substitute our judgment regarding the weight and credibility of the evidence for that of the fact finder. Id. (citing Williams v. State, 235 S.W.3d 742, 750 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007)). We presume the factfinder resolved conflicting inferences in favor of the verdict, and defer to that determination. Id. (citing Clayton v. State, 235 S.W.3d 772, 778 (Tex. Crim. App. 2007)). We also determine whether the necessary inferences are reasonable based upon the combined and cumulative force of all the evidence when viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict. Id.

         III. Sufficiency of the Evidence

         Appellant argues the "evidence adduced at trial is legally insufficient." To prevail in a case of theft, the State must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant unlawfully appropriates property with intent to deprive the owner of the property. See Tex. Penal Code § 31.03(a). "Appropriate" means "to acquire or otherwise exercise control over property other than real property." See id. § 31.01(4)(b). Appropriation of property is unlawful if it is without the owner's effective consent, or the property is stolen and the actor appropriates the property knowing it was stolen by another. See id. § 31.03(b)(1), (2). The offense of a Class B misdemeanor of theft, which was charged in this case, is punishable by confinement in jail. See id. § 12.22; see also Tex. Penal Code ยง 31.03. Therefore, after an adjudication hearing, a child who has committed the offense of theft may be found to have engaged in delinquent conduct, because theft ...

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