I conduct a preponderance of the Juvenile Advisory Hearings in the Arrowhead Justice Court and, therefore, see most of the complaints filed involving juvenile defendants. I knew that in many instances kids were being cited for possession of vaping devices or tobacco products while at school, but until I requested statistics be run and had a chance to review the results, I didn’t know the number of citations had increased so drastically.
I suspect that, for a multitude of reasons, underage vaping is an important issue to many people — juvenile defendants, their parents, school administrators and law enforcement agencies. That being said, from my perspective as a judge, it is an important issue because the charge in question is a violation of criminal statutes.
When a complaint is filed with the Arrowhead Justice Court citing someone who is under 18 years of age with a violation of criminal statutes, such as vaping, the case will be set for a Juvenile Advisory Hearing. If the defendant and his or her parent(s) or guardian(s) fail to appear, I will order the suspension of the defendant’s license or privilege to drive. The suspension will be lifted once the defendant does appear as required. I will not waive the presence of a responsible adult even if the defendant is represented by legal counsel.
Once the defendant does appear for a Juvenile Advisory Hearing, either on the originally scheduled date or after-the-fact, I will read the charges and ask if the defendant is choosing to contest them or electing to complete diversion consequences that I have the authority to assign as a Juvenile Hearing Officer. If they choose the latter course of action, and comply with my written orders within the period of time that I set — and return to me documentation confirming this is the case — I will order the dismissal of the criminal charges. What this means in laymen’s terms is that the juvenile defendant has neither a criminal conviction nor criminal record. Failure to comply by the deadline will likely result in me setting the case for a Show Cause Hearing meaning that the defendant and parent or guardian will have to make yet another appearance in court. If the defendant fails to appear, or does so but demonstrates no interest in resolving the case in a timely manner, I will sign an order suspending the juvenile defendant’s license or privilege to drive. The suspension can, and will be, released upon presentation to me of documentation indicating that he or she has complied with my diversion order.
All this could happen if a minor gets caught with an electronic vaping device or e-cigarette.
Some practical guidance to juvenile defendants: Refrain from activities that would give law enforcement officers a reason to cite you for violations of criminal statutes; be it possession of vaping devices or tobacco products, curfew violations, underage possession or consumption of alcohol, criminal speeding, reckless or aggressive driving or any other criminal charge. I suspect you and your parents have more productive and enjoyable things to do when compared with taking time-off from school and work in order to appear in front of a judge. But that is exactly where you may end-up if you don’t heed my advice.
Editor’s note: Mr. Wismer is the justice of the Peace for the Arrowhead Justice Court, which covers Sun City, central and northern Peoria and northern Glendale.