In the adjudication of a case, if the judge of any court should form a reasonable belief that the applicable law raises questions of its constitutionality that will clearly affect the outcome of the case, the judge may take the questions as a matter of prerequisite issue, stay the ongoing proceedings, and petition for an interpretation from the Grand Justices, submitting concrete and specific rationales that objectively led to the belief that the law is unconstitutional. This principle is clearly delineated in J.Y. Interpretation Nos. 371, 572, and 590. The scope of review is not merely limited to what is specifically identified in the petition; it entails the review of statutes which must be cited as the basis of adjudication and which have a material connection with the statutes in question. While the case was being adjudicated, the petitioner suspected Article 3, Paragraph 2, Section 3 of the Juvenile Proceeding Act, the applicable statute, of being unconstitutional and filed the present petition, which is in compliance with the petition-filing requirements and should be accepted. Given that both Article 26, Section 2, which provides that the juvenile court may rule that a juvenile be taken into a juvenile detention house when necessary, and Article 42, Paragraph 1, Section 4, which authorizes the juvenile court to rule that a juvenile undergo rehabilitation education in a rehabilitative institution, are provisions concerning the subsequent disposition once the petitioner has filed for the juvenile proceeding in accordance with Article 3, Paragraph 2, Section 3, they shall be subject to the scope of this constitutional interpretation review.
The right of personality is indispensible in guarding the individuality and free development of character, closely related to the safeguarding of human dignity, and is therefore protected by Article 22 of the Constitution. To protect the physical and mental health of children and juveniles, and to foster the healthy development of their character, the state bears the obligation to provide special care (see Article 156 of the Constitution). Necessary measures in the best interests of the children and juveniles must be adopted while taking into consideration the care that has been given to them by their families and the state of our society and economy (see J.Y. Interpretation Nos. 587, 603, and 656). While the legislators should set the appropriate and substantive content of the state’s protection over children and juveniles after considering such factors as the level of socioeconomic development, education, social welfare policies, and the reasonable distribution of societal resources, among others, the exercise of this legislative liberty shall nevertheless not violate the meanings and purpose of the relevant provisions concerning the protection of children and juveniles under the Constitution.
The Juvenile Proceeding Act was enacted for “the healthy growth, adjustment of living environment, and correction of character” of adolescents between the ages of 12 and 18 (see Articles 1 and 2 of the Act). Article 3, Section 2, Subsection 3 provides that for a juvenile who frequently skives or runs away from home, and judging by his/her character and environment is likely to violate the Penal Code, the juvenile court shall hear the case in accordance with the Act. That this provision places both juveniles who frequently skive or run away from home but have not violated the Penal Code and those who have under the judicial review of the Juvenile Court is a protective measure the legislature established after taking into consideration all relevant factors, and can hardly be deemed unconstitutional per se. However, if certain provisions therein should restrict the rights of the juvenile guaranteed by the Constitution, their constitutionality shall be individually reviewed.
Article 26 of the Act states: “The juvenile courts may make the following judicial rulings when necessary: (1) place the juvenile in the custody of a legal guardian, parent(s), next of kin, the current counselor, or other suitable agency, organization, or individual, and may assign the juvenile to a juvenile ombudsman for appropriate counseling before the matter is concluded; or (2) place the juvenile in a juvenile detention house, provided that it is necessary and the custody or counseling under (1) is impossible or clearly inappropriate.” Article 26-2, Paragraph 1 further states, “Neither the investigation nor the trial shall last more than two months while the juvenile is under the custody of a juvenile detention house; however, the juvenile court may, when necessary, extend the time limit for either the investigation or the trial for no more than one month and no more than once before the expiration of the custodial term.” As a result, a juvenile court may, when necessary, place a juvenile who frequently skives or runs away from home in the custody of a detention house for a maximum of six months during the investigation or court proceeding. Juvenile detention houses are affiliated with and under the High Court Prosecutorial Office with the mission to take custody of juveniles and assist the investigations of their moral character, experiences, mental and physical health, education level, family status, social environment and other necessary factors for the reference of the courts. By the provisions concerning the organization, personnel selection, and management procedures (such as those concerning treatment, awards and penalties), and other such factors (see Articles 2, 3, 14, 20, and 25 to 36 of the General Principles for the Installation and Implementation of Juvenile Detention Houses), juvenile detention houses are the agencies enforcing the judicial custody measures.
Article 42, Paragraph 1, Section 4 of the Juvenile Proceeding Act provides that the juvenile court may order the juvenile to undergo rehabilitative education at a rehabilitative institution by a protective disposition, unless the juvenile court determines that Article 27 of the same Act is applicable, and orders the transfer of the juvenile to a prosecutor of the court having jurisdiction (see Article 40), or the juvenile court decides that the matter should not be subject to or suited for protective dispositions (see Article 41). By the stipulations of Articles 53 and 56 of the same Act, rehabilitative education shall be no less than six months and no more than three years. Rehabilitative education is carried out by various agencies such as juvenile reform and correctional schools and under the auspices and supervision of the Ministry of Justice; the objectives missions are to correct the juveniles’ bad habits so that they repent and turn over a new leaf, to teach life skills, and to provide remedial education, among other things. From the regulations governing the personnel selection, management measures, as well as the measures on rendering awards and penalties at the juvenile reform and correctional schools (see Articles 2, 4, 6, 38 to 44, and 47 to 49 of the Statute on Juvenile Correction Schools; Articles 1, 3, 4, 19, 20, 23, 69 to 74, 77, and 78 of the General Principles for the Installation and Implementation of Juvenile Correction Schools), it is quite clear that juvenile rehabilitative education is to facilitate judicial correction.
In accordance with Article 26, Section 2 and Article 42, Paragraph 1, Section 4 of the Juvenile Proceeding Act, allowing courts to subject juveniles who frequently skive or run away from home but have not otherwise violated the Penal Code to judicial enforcement agencies or rehabilitative education for judicial correction does not serve the juveniles’ best interests. Moreover, both provisions, which impose custodial disposition or rehabilitative education, involve confining the personal freedom of a juvenile susceptible to criminal activities to a certain locale for a certain period of time, which constitutes “detention” under Article 8 of the Constitution and significantly impacts personal freedom. Whether such restriction conforms with Article 23 of the Constitution is subject to strict scrutiny. While Article 26 of the Act, which aims to provide temporary protective measures for juveniles from physical harm and facilitate court observation in the investigations and trial proceedings, has an appropriate objective, Section 2 of the article expressly provides that detention is the last resort when custody is impossible or clearly inappropriate. Yet even if compulsory disposition is necessary, there are nevertheless alternative measures that can be employed, such as assigning the juvenile to the care of an appropriate welfare or education agency, so that the imposition of the restriction on personal freedom never exceeds the purpose of safeguarding the juvenile’s personal safety and facilitating the judge’s investigation and adjudication, and the necessary education and counseling and related welfare measures can further be provided to foster the sound mental and physical growth of the juvenile. With regard to protective disposition under Article 42, Paragraph 1, it aims to correct the deviant behavior of the juvenile and to ensure the juvenile’s healthy development; thus, the provision has an appropriate objective, yet the goal of having a juvenile who frequently skives or runs away from home learn and socialize can be achieved through proper education and counseling and placement in a regular learning and family environment through a proper welfare or fostering agency. Therefore, with regard to the parts that restrict the personal freedom of a juvenile who frequently skives or runs away from home under Article 26, Section 2 and Article 42, Paragraph 1, Section 4, they are not in conformity with the principle of proportionality under Article 23 of the Constitution, or consistent with the meanings and purpose of protecting the juvenile’s personality rights and the State’s obligation to take necessary protective measures in the juvenile’s best interests for the sound physical and mental developments of the juvenile. These provisions shall become void within one month of the issuance of this Interpretation.
For juveniles who frequently skive or run away from home and have already been placed in detention houses or correctional facilities, the juvenile court judges having jurisdiction shall promptly resolve their cases in accordance with the meaning and purpose this Interpretation and within one month of its issuance. Where correctional education is concerned, cases may be properly disposed of by applying, mutatis mutandis, Article 42, Paragraph 1, Sections 1 to 3 of the Juvenile Proceeding Act.
In addition, the regulations concerning frequently skiving or running away from home under Article 3, Section 2, Sub-section 3 of the Juvenile Proceeding Act are likely to cause the definition of skiving and running away to be overly broad. The cause of school skiving or running away from home may not always be attributable to the juveniles, and similar behavior that does not pose a threat to society would also be subject to the jurisdiction and disposition of juvenile courts in accordance with Sub-section 3. Furthermore, exactly what substantive acts, character or environmental conditions constitutes “likely to violate the Penal Code judging by the character and environment” is not all that clear and not appropriately prescribed, which should be reviewed and revised promptly.
With regard to the petitioner’s request for an interpretation of Article 3, Section 2, Sub-sections 1, 2, 4, 5, and 7, it is denied as they pertain to other situations that constitute likely criminal offenses by the juvenile, so they are not within the scope of this review. Furthermore, they are not regulations that will clearly impact the ruling on the subject case. The request is for an interpretation that is contrary to J.Y. Interpretation Nos. 371, 572, and 590 and is thus denied.
Translated by Nigel N. T. Li.