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In re M.W.

April 7, 2009

IN THE INTEREST OF M.W., A CHILD
DIVIDE COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT, BY LAUREN THRONTVEIT, PETITIONER AND APPELLEE
v.
M.W., A CHILD, T.F., MOTHER, AND C.W., FATHER, RESPONDENTS AND APPELLANTS



Appeal from the Juvenile Court of Divide County, Northwest Judicial District, the Honorable Gerald H. Rustad, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Maring, Justice.

REVERSED AND REMANDED.

[¶1] M.W. appeals a juvenile court order transferring jurisdiction to district court under N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(b). We reverse the juvenile court's order and remand for the court to consider whether transfer to district court is appropriate under N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(c).

I.

[¶2] The State alleged M.W. committed five counts of delinquent acts of gross sexual imposition in violation of N.D.C.C. * 12.1-20-03(1)(d) and (2)(a). The State requested a transfer of jurisdiction from juvenile court to district court. The juvenile court held a hearing and considered whether to transfer the case to district court under N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(b). The court applied the requirements of N.D.C.C. * 27- 20-34(1)(b) and explained, "the only issues to be determined today is the child's age, whether there was probable cause to believe the child committed the alleged delinquent act, providing the delinquent act shown is gross sexual imposition." The court stated it did not need to consider whether the child was amenable to treatment because it was not considering whether to transfer the case under N.D.C.C. * 27-20- 34(1)(c).

[¶3] The court then stated, "if counsel has any objection to that interpretation, it's appropriate to voice it now." M.W. objected, arguing:

Your Honor, it's the position of the Respondents that "[N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(b)] does not apply. In that section[, it] does refer to the delinquent act of gross sexual imposition, as charged in the petition. However, it is the position of the respondents that [N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(b)] as it applies to gross sexual imposition requires more than probable cause to believe that act has been committed, but also requires that there be a showing, [ ], that the gross sexual imposition was on - of a victim by force or by threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury or kidnaping, that that following phrase applies to gross sexual imposition as well as to attempted gross sexual imposition.

The petition does not charge or allege any of those alternatives of threat - of force or threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury or kidnaping. And it's my understanding that the petitioner will stipulate that not only is that not alleged in the petition, but it is not alleged factually as well as legally. And it would be our position that the - that this hearing should be addressing the - the issues pursuant to [N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(c)].

[¶4] The court disagreed with M.W.'s interpretation of the statute. It concluded that the clear reading of N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(b) provides that "gross sexual imposition is a stand alone offense," and the State does not have to show "that gross sexual imposition was accompanied by force or threat of imminent death, serious bodily injury or kidnaping." The juvenile court granted the transfer request.

[¶5] M.W. appeals, arguing the juvenile court erred in its interpretation of N.D.C.C. * 27-20-34(1)(b).

II.

[¶6] This appeal turns entirely on the interpretation of N.D.C.C. * 27- 20-34(1)(b). We have previously explained how we review a court's interpretation of a statute:

Interpretation of a statute is a question of law fully reviewable on appeal. Our primary goal in statutory construction is to ascertain the intent of the legislature, and we first look to the plain language of the statute and give each word of the statute its ordinary meaning. When the wording of a statute is clear and free of all ambiguity, the letter of it is not to be disregarded under the pretext of pursuing its spirit. If, however, the statute is ambiguous or if adherence to the strict letter of the statute would lead to an absurd or ludicrous result, a court may resort to extrinsic aids, such as legislative history, to interpret the statute. A statute is ambiguous if it is susceptible to meanings that are different, but rational. We presume the legislature did not intend ...


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