Chapter 01 - General Provisions

Chapter 01 - General Provisions

45.0101 Short title.


This act shall be known and may be cited as the “Juvenile Justice Act of 1980”.

45.0102 Legislative declaration.


(a) The Legislature declares that the purposes of this title are to:

(1) secure for each child subject to these provisions such care and guidance, preferably with his own family, as will best serve his welfare and the interests of Samoan society;

(2) preserve and strengthen aiga ties whenever possible;

(3) remove a child from the custody of his parents only when his welfare and safety or the protection of the public would otherwise be endangered; and

(4) secure for any child removed from the custody of his parents the necessary care, guidance and discipline to assist him in becoming a responsible and productive member of society.

(b) To carry out these purposes, the provisions of this title shall be liberally construed.

45.0103 Definitions.


As used in this title, unless the context otherwise requires, the following definitions apply:

(1) “Adjudicatory hearing” means a hearing to determine whether the allegations of a petition under paragraph (a)(l) or (a)(2) of 45.0115 are supported by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt or the allegations of a petition under paragraph (a)(3) of 45.0115 are supported by a preponderance of the evidence.

(2) “Adult” means a person 18 years of age or older. However, any person 18 years of age or over falling under the continuing jurisdiction of the court, or who is before the court for an alleged delinquent act committed prior to his 18th birthday, or concerning whom a petition has been filed for his adoption other than under this title, shall be referred to as a child.

(3) “Child” means a person under 18 years of age or a mentally retarded or developmentally disabled person regardless of age.

(4) “Child care center” means a facility approved under law: if the facility is located in another State or Territory, it shall be licensed or approved as required by law in that state or territory.

(5) “Child in need of supervision” means any child:

(A) who is repeatedly absent from school in violation of the requirements of 16.0302;

(B) who has run away from home or is otherwise beyond the control of his parent, guardian, or other legal custodial or

(C) whose behavior or condition is such as to endanger his own or other welfare.

(6) “Child placement agency” means an agency approved under law. If the agency is located in another state or territory, it shall be licensed or approved as required by law in that state or territory.

(7) “Commit” means to transfer legal custody.

(8) “Court” means the Trial Division of the High Court of American Samoa, except for uncontested adoptions under 45.0420 through 45.0431 then court means the District Court;

(9) (A) “Delinquent child” means any child 10 years of age or older who, regardless of where the violation occurred, has violated:

(I) any federal, state, or territorial law;

(II) any ordinance, the penalty for which may be a jail sentence; or

(III) any lawful order of the court made under this title.

(B) This definition does not apply to:

(I) children 14 years of age or older who allegedly commit crimes of violence; or

(II) children who within the previous 2 years have been adjudicated a delinquent child, and the act for which the child was adjudicated a delinquent would have been a felony if committed by an adult or punishable by a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or death;

(III) children 14 years of age or older who allegedly commit any felony subsequent to any other felony which was the subject of a hearing in which the child was certified for criminal proceedings as an adult.

(C) A child who violates any traffic law or regulation shall be designated a “juvenile traffic offender” and shall not be designated a delinquent unless it be so ordered by the court after hearing the evidence.

(10) “Deprivation of custody” means transfer of legal custody by the court from a parent or a previous legal custodian to another person, agency or institution.

(11) “Detention” means the temporary care of a child who requires secure custody in physically restricting facilities pending court disposition or an execution of a court order for placement or commitment. Juvenile detention facilities are designated by the Court.

(12) "Diagnostic and evaluation centers” means places for the examination and study of persons committed to the custody of the Department of Public Safety, Corrections Bureau.

(13) “Dispositional hearing” means a hearing to determine what order of disposition should be made concerning a child adjudicated as delinquent, in need of supervision, or neglected or dependent. The hearing may be part of the proceeding which includes the adjudicatory hearing or it may be held at a time subsequent to the adjudicatory hearing.

(14) “Family care home” means a facility approved under law. If the facility is located in another state or territory, it shall be licensed or approved as required by law in that state or territory.

(15) “Group care facilities and homes” means places other than foster family care homes providing care for small groups of children.

(16) “Guardianship of the person” means the duty and authority vested by Court action to make major decisions affecting a child including, but not limited to:

(A) the authority to consent to marriage, to enlistment in the armed forces, and to medical or surgical treatment;

(B) the authority to represent a child in legal actions and to make other decisions of substantial legal significance concerning the child;

(C) the authority to consent to the adoption of a child when parental rights have been terminated by judicial decree; and

(D) the rights and responsibilities of legal custody when legal custody has not been vested in another person, agency, or institution;

(17) “Half-way houses” means group care facilities for children who have been placed on probation or parole under the terms of this title.

(18) (A) “Legal custody” means the right to the care, custody, and control of a child and the duty to provide food, clothing, shelter, ordinary medical care, education, and discipline for a child and, in an emergency, to authorize surgery or other extraordinary care. Legal custody may be taken from a parent only by Court action.

(B) For purposes of determining the residence of a child, guardianship is in the person to whom legal custody has been granted by the Court.

(19) “Neglected or dependent child” means a child:

(A) whose parent, guardian, or legal custodian has abandoned him or has subjected him to mistreatment or abuse or whose parent, guardian, or legal custodian has suffered or allowed another to mistreat or abuse the child without taking lawful means to stop such mistreatment or abuse and to prevent it from recurring;

(B) who lacks proper parental care through the actions or omissions of the parent, guardian, or legal custodian;

(C) whose environment is injurious to his welfare;

(D) whose parent, guardian, or legal custodian fails or refuses to provide proper or necessary subsistence, education, medical care, or any other care necessary for his health, guidance, or well-being; or

(E) who is homeless, without proper care, or not domiciled with his parent, guardian, or legal custodian through no fault of his parent, guardian, or legal custodian.

(20) “Normal parental discipline” means all actions by parents, such as administration of blows by hand, strap, or light switch upon the buttocks, or any firm handling, scolding or light taps, insufficient to seriously bruise or produce medical injury or disability.

(21) “Parent” means either a natural parent of a legitimate child, or a parent by adoption, or the natural parent of an illegitimate child. A child born to a woman married at the time of its conception or birth is presumed to be the legitimate child of her husband. In the event that the mother is legally married to a different man at the time of birth than she was at the time of conception, the child is presumed to be the legitimate child of her husband at the time of conception. If this presumption is legally rebutted and no contrary determination is made, the man to whom the mother is married at the time of the child’s birth is presumed to be the legitimate father of the child. The father of an illegitimate child has no parental rights to the child unless he, prior to entry of a decree of adoption, has acknowledged the child as his own by affirmatively asserting paternity as follows:

(A) causing his name to be affixed to the birth certificate of the child;

(B) paying medical or hospital bills associated with the birth of the child;

(C) paying support for the child; or

(D) otherwise asserting his paternity in writing.

(22) “Protective supervision” means a legal status created by Court order under which the child is permitted to remain in his home or is placed with a relative or other suitable person, and supervision and assistance is provided by the Court, Department of Health or other agency designated by the Court.

(23) “Receiving center” means a facility used to provide temporary detention and care for children by the Corrections Bureau pending placement in a training school, camp, or other facility.

(24) “Residual parental rights and responsibilities” means those rights and responsibilities remaining with the parent after legal custody, guardianship of the person, or both have been vested in another person, agency, or institution, including, but not limited to: the responsibility for support, the right to consent to adoption, the right to reasonable visitation unless restricted by the court, and the right to determine the child’s religious affiliation.

(25) “Shelter” means the temporary care of a child in physically unrestricting facilities pending Court disposition or execution of a court order for placement. Juvenile shelter facilities are designated by the Court.

(26) “Termination of parental rights” means the permanent elimination by Court order of all parental rights and duties, including residual parental rights and responsibilities.

(27) “Training schools” means institutions providing care, education, treatment, and rehabilitation for children in a closed setting.

45.0104 Child not neglected-When.


Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, no child who in good faith is under treatment solely by spiritual means through prayer in accordance with the tenets and practices of a recognized church or religious denominations by a duly accredited practitioner shall, for that reason alone, be considered to have been neglected. Notwithstanding the above, the Court may intervene if the child’s life is threatened to further protect the child’s welfare.

45.0115 Original jurisdiction.


(a) The Trial Division of the High Court of American Samoa has exclusive original jurisdiction in proceedings:

(1) concerning any delinquent child, as defined in subsections (2) and (9) of 45.0103;

(2) concerning any child in need of supervision, as defined in subsection (5) of 45.0103;

(3) concerning any child who is neglected or dependent, as defined in subsection (19) of 45.0103;

(4) to determine the legal custody of any child or to appoint a guardian of the person or legal custodian of any child who comes within the Court’s jurisdiction under provisions of this section;

(5) to terminate the legal parent-child relationship, including termination of residual parental rights and responsibilities as defined in subsection (24) of 45.0103;

(6) for the issuance of orders of support under45.1601 through 45.1604;

(7) to determine the paternity of a child and to make an order of support in connection with it;

(8) for the contested adoption of a person of any age and relinquishment proceeding under 45.0401 through 45.0403 (uncontested adoptions are under 45.0420 through 45.0431; see subsection (8) of 45.0103);

(9) for judicial consent to the marriage, employment, or enlistment of a child, when the consent is required by law.

(b) The Court may issue temporary orders providing for protection, support, or medical or surgical treatment it considers in the best interests of any child concerning whom a petition has been filed prior to adjudication or disposition of his case.

(c) (1) When a petition filed in Court alleges a child 14 years of age or older to be a delinquent child as defined in subsection (a) of 45.0103 by virtue of having committed an act which would constitute a felony if committed by an adult and if, after investigation and a hearing, the Court finds it would be contrary to the best interests of the child or of the public to prosecute the child as a juvenile, it may enter an order certifying the child to be held for criminal proceedings as an adult. The hearing required in this subsection is held under 45.0124.

(2) A child may be charged with the commission of a felony only after the hearing as provided in paragraph (1), or when the child is:

(A) alleged to have committed a crime of violence and is 14 years of age or older;

(B) alleged to have committed a crime punishable by a maximum punishment of life imprisonment or death, and is 16 years of age or older, and the child has been adjudicated a delinquent child within the previous 2 years and the act for which the child was adjudicated a delinquent would have constituted a felony if committed by an adult; or

(C) alleged to have committed any felony subsequent to any other felony which was the subject of a hearing in which the child was certified for criminal proceedings as an adult.

(d) Nothing in this section may deprive the Court of jurisdiction to appoint a guardian for a child nor jurisdiction to determine the legal custody of a child upon writ of habeas corpus or when the question of legal custody is incidental to the determination of a cause in the court.

45.0120 Right to counsel.


(a) At his first appearance before the Court, the child and his parents, guardian, or other legal custodian shall be fully advised by the Court of their constitutional and legal rights, including the right to a jury trial as provided in 45.0123 and the right to be represented by counsel at every stage of the proceedings.

(b) If the child or his parents, guardian, or other legal custodian requests an attorney and is found to be without sufficient financial means, counsel shall be appointed by the Court in proceedings:

(1) under paragraph (a)(l) or (a)(2) of 45.0115;or

(2) under paragraph (a)(3) of 45.0115, when the termination of parental rights is stated as possible remedy in the summons, as provided in 45.0311.

(c) The Court may appoint counsel without a request if it considers representation by counsel necessary to protect the interests of the child or of other parties.

45.0121 Nonrepresentation by counsel-Motion for new trial.


If the child and his parents, guardian, or other legal custodian were not represented by counsel at his first appearance, the court shall inform them at the conclusion of the proceedings that they have the right to file a motion for a new trial and that if the motion is denied, they have the right to appeal.

45.0122 Representation by Attorney General.


Upon the request of the Court, the Attorney General represents the Territory in the interest of the child in any proceedings brought under paragraph (a)(3) of 45.0115, and in other proceedings brought under this title, when the child is the victim.

45.0123 Trial by jury-Waiver.


A child, his parent, his guardian, or any interested party may demand a trial by jury, or the Court on its own motion may order the jury to try any case in adjudicatory hearings under paragraph (a)(l) of 45.0115, when a child is alleged to have committed an act which would be a felony if committed by an adult. Unless a jury is demanded, it is considered waived.

45.0124 Hearing-Procedure-Record-Publicity.


(a) The Court shall adopt rules of procedure to apply in all proceedings under 45.0115.

(b) Hearings shall be held before the Court without a jury, except as provided in 45.0123, and may be conducted in an informal manner, except in proceedings brought under subsection (b) of 45.0115. The general public is to be excluded. The Court may determine that it is in best interests of the child to admit those persons having an interest in the case or the work of the Court, including persons whom the parents or guardian wish to be present: provided, however, that the admission of those persons does not adversely affect the protection of the child.

(c) A verbatim record shall be taken of all proceedings which might result in the deprivation of custody. A verbatim record shall be made in all other hearings, including any hearing conducted by a referee, unless waived by the parties in the proceeding and so ordered by the judge or referee.

(d) When more than 1 child is named in a petition alleging delinquency, need of supervision, or neglect or dependency, the hearings may be consolidated, except that separate hearings may be held with respect to disposition.

(e) Children’s cases shall be heard separately from adults cases, and the child or his parents, guardian, or other custodian may be heard separately when considered necessary by the Court.

(f) The name, picture, place of residence, or identity of any child, parent, guardian, other custodian, or any person appearing as a witness in proceedings under 45.0115 may not be published in any newspaper or in any other publication nor given any other publicity, unless for good cause it is specifically permitted by order of the Court. Any person who violates the provisions of this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor.

45.0130 Social study and other reports.


(a) Unless waived by the Court, a juvenile officer or other agency designated by the court shall make a social study and report in writing in all children’s cases, except:

(I) if the allegations of a petition filed under paragraph (a)(l) of 45.0115 are denied, the study may not be made until the Court has entered an order of adjudication as provided in 45.0335; and

(2) the study and investigation in all adoptions is made under 45.0421.

(b) For the purpose of determining proper disposition of a child, written reports and other material relating to the child’s mental, physical, and social history may be received and considered by the Court along with other evidence; but the Court, if so requested by the child, his parent or guardian, or other interested party, shall require that the person who wrote the report or prepared the material appear as a witness and be subject to both direct and cross-examination. In the absence of the request, the Court may order the person who prepared the report or other material to appear if it finds that the interest of the child, his parent or guardian, or other party to the proceedings so requires.

(c) The Court shall inform the child, his parent, or legal guardian, or other interested party of the right of cross-examination concerning any written report or other material as specified by subsection (b).

45.0135 Effect of proceedings.


(a) No adjudication or disposition in proceedings under 45.0115 imposes any civil disability upon a child or disqualifies him from any personnel system or military service application or appointment or from holding public office.

(b) No adjudication, disposition, or evidence given in proceedings brought under 45.0115 is admissible against a child in any criminal or other action or proceeding, except in subsequent proceedings under 45.0115 concerning the same child.

45.0140 Referees-Qualifications-Duties.


(a) The Court may appoint 1 or more referees to hear any case or matter under the Court’s jurisdiction, except where a jury trial has been requested. Referees serve at the pleasure of the Court, unless otherwise provided by law.

(b) A person need not be licensed to practice law in the Territory of American Samoa to be appointed a referee. However, if the Court appoints a referee who is not licensed to practice law, the Court shall instruct the referee as to appropriate juvenile law and procedure.

(c) Referees shall conduct hearings in the manner provided for the hearing of cases by the Court. Prior to any hearing, except those at which the child is advised of his rights and either admits or denies the allegations of the petition, the referee shall inform the parties that they have the right to a hearing before the Court in the first instance and that they may waive that right, but that by waiving that right, they are bound by the findings and recommendations of the referee except as provided in subsection (e).

(d) At the conclusion of a hearing, the referee shall:

(1) transmit promptly to the Court all papers relating to the case together with his findings and recommendations in writing;

(2) advise the parties before him of his findings and recommendations; and

(3) advise the parties of their right to review of the findings and recommendations by the court.

(e) A request for review shall be filed within 5 days after the conclusion of the hearing and shall clearly set forth the grounds relied upon. The review shall be solely upon the record of the hearing before the referee. If review is not requested, the findings and recommendations of the referee becomes the decree of the Court when confirmed by order of the Court. The judge may, on his motion, order a hearing of any case before a referee.

45.0141 Records of court proceedings-Inspection.


(a) Records of Court proceedings shall be open to inspection by the parents or guardian, attorneys, and other parties in proceedings before the Court, and to any agency to which legal custody of the child has been transferred, except as provided in 45.0404.

(b) With consent of the Court, records of court proceedings may be inspected by the child, by persons having a legitimate interest in the proceedings, and by persons conducting pertinent research studies, except as provided in

(c) Juvenile officers records and all other reports of social and clinical studies shall not be open to inspection, except by consent of Court.

45.0142 Records of court proceedings-Petition for expungement.


(a) Any person who has been adjudicated under paragraph (a)(l) or (a)(2) of 45.0115, who was handled under paragraph (3) of 45.0302, or who was the subject of a petition dismissed under subsection (b) of 45.0332 may petition the Court for the expungement of his record and shall be so informed at the time of adjudication, or the Court, on its own motion or on the motion of the juvenile officer, may initiate expungement proceedings concerning the record of any child who has been under the jurisdiction of the Court. Except as otherwise provided in this section, the petition shall be filed or the Court order entered no sooner than 2 years after the date of termination of the Court’s jurisdiction over the person, or 2 years after his unconditional release from parole supervision, if he had been committed to the Corrections Bureau. Only by stipulation of all parties involved may expungement be applied for prior to the expiration of 2 years from the date of termination of the Court’s jurisdiction or termination of the Court’s supervision under an informal adjustment.

(b) Upon the filing of a petition or entering of a Court order, the Court shall set a date for a hearing and shall notify the Attorney General and anyone else whom the Court has reason to believe may have relevant information related to the expungement of the record.

(c) The Court shall order sealed all records in the petitioner’s case in the custody of the Court and any records in the custody of any other agency or official, including the records specified in 45.0206 and 45.0207 if at the hearing the Court finds that:

(1) the subject of the hearing has not been convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor or has not been adjudicated under paragraph (a)(l) of 45.0115 since the termination of the court’s jurisdiction or his unconditional release from parole supervision;

(2) no proceeding concerning a felony, a misdemeanor, or a petition under paragraph (a)(l) of 45.0115 is pending or being instituted against him; and

(3) the rehabilitation of the person has been attained to the satisfaction of the court.

(d) Upon the entry of an order to seal the records, the proceedings on the case are con-sidered never to have occurred, and all references are deleted, and the person and the Court may properly reply that no record exists with respect to that person upon any inquiry in the matter.

(e) Copies of the order are sent to each agency or official named in it.

(f) Inspection of the records included in the order may afterward be permitted by the Court only upon petition by the person who is the subject of the records and only to those persons named in the petition.

45.0143 Record of court proceedings-Order for expungement.


In any proceeding under paragraph (a)(l) or (a)(2) of 45.0115 in which the Court orders the petition dismissed as provided in 45.0334, the Court may order the records expunged as in subsections (c) to (f) of 45.0142. The order of expungement may be entered without delay upon petition of the child or any party or upon the Court’s own motion.

45.0145 Appeals.


(a) An adjudication in juvenile delinquency proceedings under 45.0115, and all orders in connection with those proceedings, are subject to appeal as in civil actions: except, that no filing fees are required.

(b) The people of the Territory of American Samoa have the same right to appeal questions of law in delinquency cases under paragraph (a) (1) of 45.0115 as exist in criminal cases.