The PEOPLE of the State of Colorado, Petitioner-Appellee, IN the INTEREST OF J.V.D., Juvenile-Appellant.
Gunnison County District Court No. 17JD8, Honorable J. Steven
J. Weiser, Attorney General, Gabriel P. Olivares, Assistant
Attorney General, Denver, Colorado, for Petitioner-Appellee
Jorfald, Alternate Defense Counsel, Lakewood, Colorado, for
1] The juvenile, J.V.D., appeals his delinquency
adjudication on a charge of first degree criminal trespass.
Because we agree with him that his right to counsel was
when he proceeded without representation despite no valid
waiver of that right, we reverse the adjudication.
2] According to the prosecutions evidence, J.V.D.,
then sixteen years old, opened the window of his neighbors
trailer, but left after the neighbors face appeared in the
3] Nearly six months later, J.V.D. received a notice
to appear concerning an allegation of second degree criminal
trespass— a class 3 misdemeanor. He appeared at the
hearing with his mother. There, the juvenile court advised
them, as relevant here, (1) of the allegation of second
degree trespass; (2) that if he pleaded guilty or was found
guilty at trial, he could be sentenced to the Department of
Youth Corrections; and (3) that he had the right to be
represented by counsel and that a public defender would be
appointed if he was financially qualified. J.V.D. asked the
court if he could represent himself. After cautioning him
that the proceedings could be complicated and that he might
get bad advice from a nonlawyer, it responded that he had the
right to represent himself.
4] J.V.D. proceeded to debate his Sixth Amendment
right to a jury trial with the juvenile court, and it advised
him repeatedly that he was "getting bad advice."
The court offered to appoint a guardian ad litem (GAL), and
J.V.D. declined. As the court attempted to conclude the
proceedings, J.V.D. asked whether the case was a civil or
criminal action. The court briefly explained that a juvenile
delinquency case was neither civil nor criminal but was
analogous to a criminal case, and it repeated its caution
against getting legal advice from nonlawyers.
5] A week later, the prosecution filed a delinquency
petition charging first degree criminal trespass, a class 5
felony, not the second degree trespass about which J.V.D. had
been advised. A copy of the petition was mailed to J.V.D.s
mother, but the envelope was returned unclaimed.
6] At the plea hearing, J.V.D. stated that he did
not wish to enter a plea until some of his questions were
answered. He asked for information on the nature and cause of
the action, whether the action was civil or criminal, and
"for the rule-book— the regulations, the rules,
the codes, the statutes— in order for me to
intelligently defend myself."
7] The juvenile court suggested that perhaps he
should have an attorney, but J.V.D. said that he was not
looking for legal advice. The prosecutor asked for a GAL to
be appointed. J.V.D. objected, and his mother agreed that a
GAL was not necessary. The court did not appoint a GAL.
8] J.V.D. pressed the court regarding his questions.
The court told him that he had been informed of the nature of
the proceeding, directed him to go to the library to find the
relevant information, deemed his actions to be a denial of
the petition, and set the matter for trial. J.V.D.
repeatedly objected to the involuntary entry of a plea. The
matter was set for trial six weeks later.
9] At the outset of trial, J.V.D. "totally
object[ed] to the proceeding" because he did not
"know the full nature and cause," and he had been
unprepared to enter a plea. The juvenile court took a few
moments to explain jurisdiction and then proceeded with the
10] J.V.D. acted pro se at trial, though he was also
represented by his mother. He was not invited to give an
opening statement, and he did not testify or call any
witnesses, though he claimed that ...