Submitted: February 20, 2019
Below: Family Court of the State of Delaware ID. No.
STRINE, Chief Justice; VALIHURA and VAUGHN, Justices.
T. Vaughn, Jr. Justice.
18th day of April 2019, upon consideration of the
parties' briefs and the record on appeal, it appears
Family Court commissioner found the appellant, Whitney
Addison,  delinquent by having committed Offensive
Touching. A Family Court judge affirmed the
commissioner's finding. Addison appeals, her sole claim
being that the State violated her right to due process by
filing a delinquency petition that was defective because it
failed to charge an offense and left her vulnerable to
possible subsequent prosecution. She makes three arguments in
support of this claim. First, she contends that the petition
was defective because it failed to set forth facts that
support each element of Offensive Touching. Second, she
contends that the defective petition could not have been
cured by a bill of particulars. Finally, she contends that
the Family Court erred in holding that she waived her right
to challenge the sufficiency of the petition when she waived
a reading of the petition at her arraignment. We find no
merit to Addison's contentions and affirm.
March 5, 2018, Keishla Montijo was working as a credit
coordinator at Lowe's hardware store in New Castle. At
approximately 5:30 p.m., Addison and three others approached
Montijo from behind. Addison hit her multiple times and
pulled her to the floor. Montijo got up and reported the
attack to the store's manager, who called the police. The
store's security camera system captured the attack.
Addison was charged with being delinquent by having committed
Offensive Touching. A Family Court commissioner conducted a
bench trial. At the close of the State's case, Addison
moved to dismiss the delinquency petition, arguing that it
failed to charge an offense. The court denied the motion and
held that the petition adequately charged Offensive Touching
because it gave a definitive statement of the charge, the
date of the offense, and the identity of the victim. After
Addison testified and each side gave closing arguments, the
court found Addison delinquent of Offensive Touching. Addison
was sentenced to thirty days at Level V, suspended for one
year of community supervision.
Addison filed a Request for Review of Commissioner's
Order. She presented three objections: (1) her due process
right to notice of the charge was violated by the allegedly
defective petition, (2) her due process right to be protected
against double jeopardy was violated by the State's
petition, and (3) the Family Court erred in determining that
sufficient evidence existed to justify a finding that Addison
had committed Offensive Touching.
Family Court judge affirmed the commissioner's order. As
to Addison's first objection, the court held that the
State's petition provided adequate notice by tracking the
language of the statute and connecting it to the facts of the
case. This holding effectively overruled Addison's second
objection. The court explained, "The language of the
charge along with the date of the offense and the name of the
victim are sufficient to protect [Addison] from double
jeopardy." The Family Court judge also rejected
Addison's third objection concerning the sufficiency of
"We review denial of a motion to dismiss [a petition
alleging delinquency] for abuse of
discretion." Questions of law and alleged
constitutional violations are reviewed de
novo. "To the extent the trial judge's
decision is based on factual findings, we review for whether
the trial judge abused his or her discretion in determining
whether there was sufficient evidence to support the findings
and whether those findings were clearly
Addison contends that the petition was defective because it
lacked the necessary elements to support a charge of
Offensive Touching and that such defect has left her
vulnerable to subsequent prosecution for the same offense.
She further argues that (1) a bill of particulars could not
have cured the State's defective petition and (2) her
waiver of a reading of the petition at her arraignment was
not a waiver of her due process right to challenge the
sufficiency of the petition.
a petition to adequately charge an offense, it must include
"a plain, concise and definite written statement of the
essential facts constituting the offense charged."
This requirement serves two purposes: (1) "to put the
juvenile [respondent] on full notice of what [s]he is called
upon to defend" and (2) "to effectively preclude
subsequent prosecution for the same
offense." A petition is sufficient if it fulfills
these two purposes,  and a charging document is generally
sufficient if it sets forth the offense in the words of the
statute and those words themselves set forth all the elements
necessary to constitute the offense.  However, if a
petition lacks a plain statement of the elements or essential
facts of the charged act of delinquency, it is defective and
should be dismissed.
Here, in addition to referring to the Offensive Touching
statute by its statutory number and providing the street
address where the offense occurred, ...