COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY APPELLEE
DISCRETIONARY REVIEW FROM HOPKINS CIRCUIT COURT HONORABLE
JAMES C. BRANTLEY, JUDGE ACTION NOS. 16-J-00049-004,
16-XX-00002, 16-XX-00003, 16-XX-00004, AND 16-XX-00005
FOR APPELLANT: Renee Sara Vandenwallbake Frankfort, Kentucky
FOR APPELLEE: Andy Beshear Attorney General of Kentucky
Courtney J. Hightower Assistant Attorney General Frankfort,
BEFORE: ACREE AND JONES, JUDGES; AND HENRY, SPECIAL JUDGE.
granted discretionary review in this case to address
Appellant L.H.'s appeal of the Hopkins Circuit
Court's September 15, 2016 order affirming the Hopkins
Juvenile Court's April 18, 2016 disposition order
committing L.H. to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ).
L.H. was charged with four crimes between October 2015 and
March 2016. He ultimately pleaded guilty to all four charges.
October 2015, the Commonwealth filed a petition charging L.H.
with third-degree burglary, a Class D felony if committed by
an adult. KRS511.040(2). The charge stemmed from L.H.
breaking into and stealing items from a business in Webster
County, Kentucky, in October 2015. He pleaded guilty to the
charge on February 23, 2016, in Webster District Court, and
an adjudication order was entered reflecting his plea. The
Webster District Court referred the matter to Hopkins County
November 2015, the Commonwealth filed a second petition
charging L.H. with the unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, a
misdemeanor. KRS 514.100(2). The charge stemmed from L.H.
stealing his uncle's vehicle and attempting to leave in
the vehicle undetected. L.H. pleaded guilty on March 28,
2016, and the juvenile court entered an adjudication order
reflecting his plea.
January 2016, the Commonwealth filed a third petition
charging L.H. with second-degree disorderly conduct, a
misdemeanor. KRS 525.060(2). The charge stemmed from
L.H.'s disruptive behavior at South Hopkins Middle
School, where he was kicking and throwing chairs, refusing to
follow directives, and challenging the authority of teachers
and law enforcement. Before adjudication of that petition, in
March 2016, the Commonwealth filed a fourth petition charging
L.H. with three additional offenses in an unrelated case:
second-degree wanton endangerment; no operator's license;
and reckless driving. These charges stemmed from L.H. driving
his dirt bike at a high rate of speed through an elementary
school parking lot when parents were dropping off children
juvenile court held an adjudication hearing on April 11,
2016, to resolve petitions three and four. L.H. pleaded
guilty to second-degree disorderly conduct (petition three),
and second-degree disorderly conduct, as amended from
second-degree wanton endangerment, and operating a motor
vehicle without a license (petition four). The juvenile
court entered two adjudication orders, the first adjudicating
his guilty plea to petition three, and the second
adjudicating his guilty pleas to petition four.
appeared before the juvenile court on April 28, 2016, for
disposition of all four adjudications. In discussing the
option of commitment to the DJJ, the juvenile court candidly
acknowledged that L.H. was repeatedly getting into trouble,
including L.H.'s daily behavior indiscretions at school
and an incident the day before the hearing when L.H. drank
his mother's vodka with four other boys at 4:00 a.m. The
Commonwealth argued commitment was in L.H.'s best
interest because it would be dangerous for him to remain in
the community. The DJJ did not object but questioned whether
L.H. met the prerequisites for commitment. The juvenile court
entered an order committing L.H. to the DJJ. L.H. filed a
motion to reconsider, which the juvenile court denied.
then appealed to the Hopkins Circuit Court. He argued: the
juvenile court was not authorized to order him to DJJ
commitment because he did not have three prior adjudications,
as required by KRS 635.060(4)(a)(1); the juvenile court did
not attempt less restrictive alternatives prior to committing
L.H., as required by KRS 600.010(2)(c); and L.H.'s guilty
pleas were not made knowingly or intelligently pursuant to
Boykin v. Alabama, 395 U.S. 238, 239, 89 S.Ct. 1709,
1710, 23 L.Ed.2d 274 (1969) and D.R. v.
Commonwealth, 64 S.W.3d 292 (Ky. App. 2001), because the
juvenile court did not inform L.H. that his pleas could
result in his commitment. The circuit court affirmed the
juvenile court's disposition decision. Upon L.H.'s
request, this Court granted discretionary review. We will
discuss additional facts in the course of our analysis.
presents two arguments on appeal. First, that the juvenile
court was not permitted to commit him to the DJJ because he
did not meet the statutory standard for commitment set forth
in KRS 635.060(4)(a)(1). And, second, that his guilty plea
was not knowingly and intelligently made. We disagree.
primary argument on appeal is that commitment was not
authorized by KRS 635.060(4)(a)(1) because he had
insufficient prior adjudications. Resolution of this claim is
a matter of statutory interpretation. Questions involving
statutory interpretation are reviewed de novo.
Brewer v. Commonwealth, 478 S.W.3d 363, 368 (Ky.
interpreting a statute, our main goal "is to
'effectuate the intent of the legislature.'"
Id. at 371 (quoting Commonwealth v.
Plowman, 86 S.W.3d 47, 49 (Ky. 2002)). "That intent
is perhaps no better expressed than through the actual text
of the statute, so we look first to the words chosen by the
legislature-if they are clear, they are decisive."
Id. (footnote omitted). "And '[w]here the
words used in a statute are clear and unambiguous and express
the legislative intent, there is no room for construction and
the statute must be accepted as written.'" Bell
v. Bell, 423 S.W.3d 219, 223 (Ky. 2014) (citation
635.060, the statute at issue in this case, states, in
pertinent part, that the juvenile "court, at the
dispositional hearing, may . . . [o]rder the child to be
committed" to the custody of the DJJ if the child has
been "adjudicated for an offense that would be a
misdemeanor or Class D felony if committed by an adult and
the child has at least three (3) prior adjudications . . .
which do not arise from the same course of conduct[.]"
KRS 635.060(4)(a)(1). It is undisputed that, at the time of
disposition, L.H. had four adjudications, each of which arose
from a different course of conduct. Three of those
adjudications were for misdemeanors, and one adjudication,
third-degree burglary, was for a Class D felony, if committed
by an adult. ...