Opinion No. 43
from the District Court of the Third Judicial District, State
of Idaho, Canyon County. Hon. D. Duff McKee, District Judge.
district court's order is reversed.
Lawrence G. Wasden, Idaho Attorney General, Boise, for
appellant. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.
County Public Defender's Office, Caldwell, for
respondent. Randy W. Smith and Mikel J. Hautzinger argued.
BURDICK, Chief Justice.
State of Idaho appeals from the Canyon County district
court's decision reversing the magistrate court's
order waiving juvenile jurisdiction of Manuel Jesus
Cota-Medina (Cota-Medina). Cota-Medina was charged with
trafficking heroin as a result of an undercover police
operation. Cota-Medina was seventeen years old when he
allegedly committed the trafficking offense. The State moved
to waive juvenile jurisdiction and proceed on the trafficking
charge in adult criminal court. The magistrate court,
applying the relevant statute, determined juvenile
jurisdiction should be waived and Cota-Medina should be tried
in adult court. Cota-Medina appealed and the district court,
acting in an intermediate appellate capacity, reversed the
magistrate court's order, thus concluding juvenile
jurisdiction should not have been waived. The State timely
appealed the district court's decision. We reverse the
district court's order and affirm the magistrate
court's order waiving juvenile jurisdiction.
I. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2016, investigator Joel Garcia (Garcia) of the Nampa Police
Department began working in an undercover capacity with a
confidential informant (informant) to set up the delivery and
purchase of heroin. The informant introduced Garcia to a
supplier of heroin based out of Phoenix, Arizona. Posing as a
drug buyer, Garcia set up a deal with the Phoenix supplier to
purchase twenty-five "pieces" of heroin, with one
piece being about twenty-five grams. The Phoenix contact told
the informant and Garcia that they would need to pick up a
man named Rodrigo Ramirez (Ramirez) from the Boise Airport.
Garcia and the informant picked up Ramirez on June 16, 2016,
and drove to the Holiday Inn Express hotel in Nampa, Idaho.
Ramirez told Garcia and the informant that he would call them
when the car loaded with the heroin arrived.
called two hours later stating the car had arrived, after
which Garcia drove to the hotel and got into the loaded car
with Ramirez. Cota-Medina was sitting in the driver's
seat of the car, and his cousin, nineteen-year-old Irwin
Camacho (Camacho) was in the passenger seat. Both Cota-Medina
and Camacho indicated there were drugs in the back of the
car, and that they needed to use a tool that would open and
remove the drugs in about five minutes. Cota-Medina indicated
they needed to drive somewhere safer, like a house with a
garage, to unload the drugs. Garcia then exited the vehicle,
gave the arrest signal, and all three suspects were arrested
and the vehicle searched.
Garcia expected to purchase twenty-five pieces of heroin, the
vehicle contained 2, 387.4 grams of heroin, which is over
five pounds, and about ninety-five pieces. The street value
of the heroin, depending on how it is sold, had a value
between $350, 000 and $500, 000. The investigators learned
that the additional quantities of heroin were intended for
other unknown buyers, to which Cota-Medina and Camacho would
deliver after delivering Garcia's drugs.
three suspects-Cota-Medina, Camacho, and Ramirez-were
interviewed and provided statements. Cota-Medina stated that
a few days before driving from Phoenix to Nampa he met a
person named "Pariente" who asked Cota-Medina if he
would drive a car up to Idaho to deliver some "little
pieces." Cota-Medina stated he knew that meant drugs but
he did not know how much was involved. Cota-Medina was to be
paid $4, 000 and he arranged for Camacho to assist and split
the money. Cota-Medina had been living with Camacho, his
nineteen-year-old cousin, and Cota-Medina stated Camacho was
the adult responsible for him. The car used to transport the
heroin belonged to Camacho and the drugs had been concealed
in the car prior to leaving Phoenix. Cota-Medina denied
knowing there were drugs hidden in the car, but the
magistrate court found Cota-Medina's "denial of
knowledge of concealed drugs [was] not credible." The
magistrate court found that Garcia's testimony and
Cota-Medina wanting to move the car to a safer location to
unload the drugs demonstrated Cota-Medina did have knowledge
there were drugs in the car.
Cota-Medina's parents, the magistrate court found
Cota-Medina's father lives in Phoenix and is not involved
in Cota-Medina's life. When Cota-Medina was arrested,
police attempted to contact Cota-Medina's father;
however, upon learning Cota-Medina was arrested, the father
hung up the phone and subsequent calls were not answered.
Cota-Medina's mother lives in Mexico, and is in contact
with Cota-Medina only through Facebook messenger.
has no known criminal history. He last attended school in
Phoenix, where he was dropped from school for poor attendance
in March of 2016. The magistrate court found
Cota-Medina's poor grades and failure to advance were a
result of poor attendance rather than a learning disability.
Cota-Medina turned eighteen on September 11, 2016.
Cota-Medina has never held down a job. Cota-Medina did admit
to drug use, and admitted to using cocaine to stay awake on
the drive from Phoenix to Idaho.
was charged with trafficking heroin, and the prosecution
filed a motion to waive juvenile court jurisdiction under
Idaho Code section 20-508. The magistrate court ordered a
juvenile probation report and an evidentiary hearing. The
probation report recommended the juvenile court retain
jurisdiction. Following the evidentiary hearing, the
magistrate court weighed the factors under Idaho Code section
20-508 and determined juvenile jurisdiction should be waived
and Cota-Medina should be tried in adult court. In so
holding, the magistrate court noted that four factors weighed
heavily in favor of waiving juvenile jurisdiction, one
weighed against, and one was neutral. Following the magistrate
court's waiver of juvenile jurisdiction, Cota-Medina
appealed, and the district court, acting in an intermediate
appellate capacity, reversed the magistrate court's
waiver of jurisdiction. The district court stated the
magistrate court incorrectly applied the legal standards
articulated in 20-508, and the legal standards are issues
over which the district court exercised free review. The
district court stated that four factors clearly weighed
against waiver, and two were neutral. Thus, the district court
reversed the magistrate court's decision. The State
STANDARD OF REVIEW
A decision regarding whether or not to waive a juvenile into
adult court is a matter that is within the sound discretion
of the juvenile court. Accordingly, a waiver decision will be
upheld on appeal so long as it was not an abuse of
discretion. A waiver decision will not be regarded as an
abuse of discretion when the court: (1) perceived the issue
as one of discretion; (2) acted within the boundaries of its
discretion and consistently with the legal standards
applicable to the available choices; and (3) reached its
decision through an exercise of reason. Additionally, the
court's findings of fact must be supported by substantial
and competent evidence.
In re Doe, 147 Idaho 243, 247-48, 207 P.3d 974,
978-79 (2009) (citations omitted).
this Court reviews the decision of a district court sitting
in its capacity as an appellate court, the standard of review
is as follows:
The Supreme Court reviews the trial court (magistrate) record
to determine whether there is substantial and competent
evidence to support the magistrate's findings of fact and
whether the magistrate's conclusions of law follow from
those findings. If those findings are so supported and the
conclusions follow therefrom and if the district court
affirmed the ...