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In re J.M.E.

Court of Appeals of Texas, Fourth District, San Antonio

January 8, 2020

IN THE MATTER OF J.M.E.

          From the County Court at Law No. 2, Webb County, Texas Trial Court No. 2017JV3000176L2 Honorable Victor Villarreal, Judge Presiding

          Sitting: Patricia O. Alvarez, Justice Irene Rios, Justice Beth Watkins, Justice

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Beth Watkins, Justice

         J.M.E. appeals the juvenile court's order committing him to the Texas Juvenile Justice Department (TJJD) for an indeterminate term, not to exceed his nineteenth birthday. On appeal, J.M.E. argues the juvenile court abused its discretion because less restrictive alternatives were available and commitment to the TJJD violated his Eighth Amendment rights. We affirm the juvenile court's order.

         Background

         On November 6, 2017, the juvenile court signed an order finding that J.M.E. was a child who engaged in delinquent conduct by committing a felony 3 offense of alien smuggling, a violation of section 20.05 of the Texas Penal Code. The juvenile court placed J.M.E. on probation for fifteen months, with the first four months on intensive supervision probation ("ISP"). He was placed at the Judge Ricardo Garcia Regional Detention Center ("the Center") and ordered to complete certain services including "CAPS and SCAN counseling, SWK [Southwest Keys Program] after completion of ISP, Cognitive Life Skills at YV [Youth Village]."

         On May 30, 2018, J.M.E. was unsuccessfully discharged from the Center because he failed to comply with its requirements. He was detained at the TJJD, but was later transferred to the Webb County Jail after assaulting another juvenile. Since his transfer, he has not been released. On January 12, 2019, the State filed a motion to modify disposition, alleging J.M.E. violated the conditions of his probation because he was unsuccessfully discharged from the Center and failed to complete any of the court-ordered services.

         At the hearing on the State's motion to modify, J.M.E. pled true to being unsuccessfully discharged from the Center and failing to complete any of the court-ordered services. The juvenile court also heard testimony from J.M.E.'s probation officer, Officer Pryscilla Castillo, who testified J.M.E. was unsuccessfully discharged from the Center because he did not participate in counseling sessions and initiated fights with other juveniles at the Center. She further testified that J.M.E. could not be placed with his parents after his unsuccessful discharge because they did not provide adequate supervision.

         Officer Castillo also testified that J.M.E. had a history of delinquent conduct and substance abuse. She stated that before his current probation, J.M.E. had been referred to the juvenile court ten times and placed on probation twice for nonviolent offenses. She further testified he failed to successfully complete his first probation because he reoffended, and his probation was extended as a result. The record reflects he served that probation concurrently with his instant probation until that case was closed in May of 2018 and he was unsuccessfully discharged from the Center. Officer Castillo also testified that during his previous probations, J.M.E. tested positive multiple times for THC and once for cocaine and benzodiazepines. His last drug test was November 6, 2017, and he tested positive for THC.

         Regarding his behavior, Officer Castillo testified that while at the Webb County Jail, J.M.E. was attending school, receiving good grades, attending CAPS counseling, and receiving SCAN services. She explained that in contrast, while at the Center, he failed to comply with the Center's requirements even after he was given a second chance. She testified she believed it was in J.M.E.'s best interest to be placed at the TJJD rather than a boot camp because even though he may qualify for a boot camp, a structured facility like the TJJD would provide J.M.E. with all the services he needed and the best opportunity to rehabilitate.

         At the end of the hearing, the juvenile court found that J.M.E. had violated the terms of his probation and ordered him committed to the TJJD. J.M.E. appeals.

         Analysis

         Standard of Review

         A juvenile court has broad discretion to determine a suitable disposition for a juvenile found to have engaged in delinquent conduct, particularly in proceedings involving modification. In re J.P., 136 S.W.3d 629, 633 (Tex. 2004); In re P.E.C., 211 S.W.3d 368, 370 (Tex. App.-San Antonio 2006, no pet.). A trial court abuses its discretion when it acts arbitrarily or unreasonably or without reference to guiding rules or principles. In re P.E.C., 211 S.W.3d at 370. Absent such a ...


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