A.W., a Child v. Commonwealth, 163 SW3d 4 (Ky., 2005)

A.W., a Child v. Commonwealth, 163 SW3d 4 (Ky., 2005)
KRS 635.060 does not act as a limitation on the length of
sentence a Juvenile Court may impose in the appropriate
exercise of its inherent contempt powers for violation of
its orders. A juvenile can be held in contempt for violating
the conditions of probation.

A.W., a 14 year old juvenile, was adjudicated a public offender, and given a 30 day detention sentence, probated on condition she (1) abide by a nightly curfew, and (2) receive no new charges.

Less than two months later, A.W. was charged with harassment and later with failing to abide by her curfew.

At the scheduled hearing, the court stated it would be a contempt hearing. Counsel for A.W. stated he had reviewed the matter and A.W. "substantially admits the contempt." The record does not reflect the trial court explained to A.W. the consequences of an admission by her to contempt. A.W. was then held in contempt and sentenced to 60 days detention, all but 15 of which were probated for two years. A.W. appealed to Circuit Court, arguing the Juvenile Court erred in holding her in contempt as opposed to revoking her probations.

The Circuit Court affirmed. Thereafter, the Court of Appeals affirmed the holding of contempt but reversed on a finding that the procedures which the trial court followed did not comply with A.W.'s substantive due process rights, for failure to explain the consequences of admitting to contempt.

The Kentucky Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeals. The contempt power may be used to persuade a contemnor to do what the law requires. A contempt sanction is distinguishable from a sentence set at a dispositional hearing for a public offense.