Brief Fact Summary. The juvenile, Devon T. (the Juvenile), was charged with a crime that would have constituted possession with intent to distribute heroin if it had been committed by an adult. At the time of the offense, the juvenile was 13 years, 10 months, and two weeks of age. He was adjudicated delinquent and raised the issue of incapacity due to infancy.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. An infant between the ages of seven and fourteen is presumed not to have the capacity to commit a crime, but such presumption can be overcome by evidence that, at the time of doing the act, the infant knew the difference between right and wrong.
This was aptly noted by Judge Moylan in in re Devon T. Under the initially prevailing philosophy that the State was acting in delinquency cases as parens patriae (sovereign parent of the country, the State was perceived to be not the retributive punisher of the child for its misdeeds but the paternalistic guardian of the child for its own best interests.View Full Point of Law
Issue. Does the juvenile of age 13 years, 10 months and two weeks lack the capacity to commit a crime?
Held. No. While there is a rebuttable presumption that an infant between the ages of seven and fourteen are without criminal capacity, the prosecution satisfied its burden of proving that the juvenile knew the difference between right and wrong. The juvenile was very close to his fourteenth birthday at the time of the criminal incident. His cognitive capacities were at or near normal. Most importantly, the nature of crime itself, possession with intent to distribute, indicates knowledge of the difference between right and wrong. Likewise, the fact that the juvenile attempted to conceal his activities evidenced knowledge of the difference between right and wrong.
Discussion. An infant between the ages of seven and fourteen presumably lacks criminal capacity. The burden of establishing the contrary lies squarely with the prosecution.