Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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Penal Code section 1170.95's petitioning procedure applies to a juvenile, like the one in this case, whose murder allegation was sustained by the juvenile court on a natural and probable consequences theory prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 1437, which amended the natural and probable consequences doctrine as it relates to murder. Because R.G. has not petitioned the court to have the conviction vacated and the corresponding commitment recalled, the Court of Appeal held that Senate Bill 1437 relief was premature. Accordingly, the court affirmed the juvenile court's order sustaining the allegation that R.G. committed second degree murder. View "People v. R.G." on Justia Law

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A jury found defendants Luis Alberto Ramirez and Jose Roberto Armendariz committed two gang-related murders when they were juveniles. The trial court originally sentenced Ramirez to life without the possibility of parole, plus 65 years to life, and it sentenced Armendariz to 90 years to life. Eventually, the Court of Appeal reversed the sentences and remanded the matter to the trial court for resentencing. Following remand, Proposition 57 was enacted. The California Supreme Court held Proposition 57 applied retroactively to all cases not yet final at the time it was enacted. Thereafter, defendants filed a motion requesting the superior court remand their case to the juvenile court per Proposition 57. Over the prosecutor’s objections, the court granted the motion and ordered the matter transferred to the juvenile court. The District Attorney sought review of the trial court’s transfer order via writ and direct appeal. The Court of Appeal summarily denied the District Attorney’s petition for a writ of mandate or prohibition, leaving only this appeal. Defendants moved to dismiss the instant appeal, contending the trial court’s transfer order was not appealable. The Court of Appeal denied: "Notwithstanding the fact this court reversed defendants’ sentences, the transfer order is appealable under Penal Code section 1238 (a)(5), as an 'order made after judgment, affecting the substantial rights of the people.'” Judgments were entered when the initial sentences were imposed. While the sentences were reversed and resentencing ordered, the resentencing would result in modified judgments, not new judgments. Because the transfer order affects the State's ability to enforce the modified judgements, it was appealable under Penal Code section 1238 (a)(5). On the merits, the District Attorney contended the trial court lacked authority to order the matter transferred to the juvenile court because the transfer order exceeded the scope of the remittitur; District Attorney conceded defendants were entitled to the benefit of Proposition 57. In light of Proposition 57 and California v. Superior Court (Lara), 4 Cal.5th 299 (2018), the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court properly transferred the matter to the juvenile court to hold a transfer hearing. View "California v. Ramirez" on Justia Law

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Proposition 57, enacted by voters in 2016, eliminated a district attorney’s ability to “direct file” charges in criminal court against minors who were 14 years of age or older at the time of their alleged crimes. Proposition 57 requires a district attorney to obtain juvenile court approval before prosecuting minors in criminal court. In 2018, the Legislature further restricted a district attorney’s ability to treat minors as adults by enacting Senate Bill 1391, which prohibits the transfer of 14- and 15-year-old offenders to criminal court in almost all circumstances. The Solano County District Attorney argued the new law is invalid because it is inconsistent with and does not further the intent of Proposition 57. The court of appeal disagreed and denied mandamus relief. SB 1391 takes Proposition 57’s goal of promoting juvenile rehabilitation one step further by ensuring that almost all who commit crimes at the age of 14 or 15 will be processed through the juvenile system and in no way detracts from Proposition 57’s stated intent that, where a juvenile transfer decision must be made, a judge rather than a prosecutor must make the decision. View "People v. Superior Court (Alexander C.)" on Justia Law

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Chioma and Edwards were each convicted on multiple counts arising from their joint 2012 sexual assault and robbery of Jane Doe and robbery of her male friend. With “one-strike” (because they inflicted great bodily injury and personally used a firearm) and other allegations against them, Chioma was sentenced to 129 years to life, and Edwards was sentenced to 95 years to life. Both were 19 years old when they committed these offenses. They challenged their prison sentences as cruel and unusual punishment, and, on equal protection grounds, challenged their exclusion from the Section I. 2 provisions of Penal Code section 30511—which mandates youthful-offender parole hearings for most who receive de facto life sentences for crimes they commit at or before age 25. The court of appeal rejected the’ cruel and unusual punishment challenge but accepted their equal protection arguments and remanded to allow the development of the record with evidence of youth-related factors that will be relevant in a youthful-offender parole hearing. Under the One-Strike exemption to Penal Code 30511, an entire class of youthful offenders convicted of crimes short of homicide is, regardless of criminal history, categorically exempted from an opportunity offered to all youthful first degree murderers except those sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. View "People v. Edwards" on Justia Law

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In 1986, Mother’s first child was detained at birth after mother and child tested positive for marijuana and cocaine. The pattern continued for 30 years: each of Mother’s six children would be removed from her care—sometimes several times—based on Mother's substance abuse, inability to care for her children, and domestic violence in the household. Caden, born in 2009, was taken into protective custody in 2013 and was diagnosed with disruptive behavior disorder and PTSD, with symptoms of aggression, impairment of social relationships, tantrums, regressions, and emotional dysregulation. Mother failed to take advantage of numerous services. The juvenile court determined that Mother had established a beneficial relationship with Caden (Juvenile Code section 366.26(c)(1)(B)(i)), sufficient to justify a permanent plan of long-term foster care rather than the statutorily preferred plan of adoption. The court of appeal reversed. Reliance on the beneficial relationship exception was an abuse of discretion. While Caden had a beneficial relationship with his mother, uncontroverted evidence established that long-term foster care posed risks of further destabilizing the vulnerable child, fostered unhealthy interactions, and robbed Caden of a stable and permanent home with an exceptional caregiver. Caden has suffered years of trauma and instability as a result of Mother’sunresolved substance abuse and mental health issues; her failure to seek treatment continued up to the permanency planning hearing. View "In re Caden C." on Justia Law

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The juvenile defendant committed a misdemeanor for disturbing the peace on school grounds after he called a teacher, who was trying to stop a fist fight involving defendant, a racial slur. The juvenile court judge granted probation on several conditions, including the condition that defendant's electronic devices would be subject to search. The court affirmed the trial court's condition requiring defendant to consent to a search of electronic devices as a correctional tool in defendant's reformation and rehabilitation. The court held that the electronic search condition was reasonable because it allowed law enforcement to monitor defendant's compliance with conditions of his probation and the condition was not overbroad where it limited the search to specific forms of digital communication. View "People v. J.G." on Justia Law

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C.W. was born in 2002. His father, Rusty, moved to Louisiana and started a new family. Before Rusty left, the four-year-old daughter of a friend had accused him of sexual abuse. Rusty had practically no contact with C.W. In Louisiana, Rusty was arrested on aggravated rape charges and spent 10 months in jail. Rusty admitted having sexual intercourse with a third minor, claiming it had been consensual. C.W. entered the child dependency system at age 10. During a “trial home visit” with Rusty, C.W. deteriorated, experiencing trouble in school, conflict with his father, sexual misbehavior and trouble with the law. Rusty sent C.W. to live in a Louisiana children’s group home at the urging of local law enforcement officials. Meanwhile, in California, C.W.'s mother, Heather, had overcome homelessness and drug addiction and become gainfully employed. Heather sought C.W.’s return. The Sonoma County juvenile court terminated his dependency case when C.W. was 16, awarding sole legal and physical custody to Rusty. While an appeal was pending, Louisiana authorities removed C.W., on an emergency basis, from Rusty’s custody, and sent C.W. to California. The court of appeal reversed, first noting that under the Uniform Child Custody Enforcement Act, California has continuing, exclusive jurisdiction over the permanent disposition of C.W.’s custody. The juvenile court abused its discretion. Rusty participated in barely any reunification services, engaged in no sexual abuse counseling, and lives far from local child welfare officials. View "In re C.W." on Justia Law

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Minor, age 16, admitted to carjacking with a personal firearm use enhancement. The probation officer recommended the juvenile court adjudge Minor a ward of the court; remove him from parental custody; commit him to a county institution for a period not to exceed maximum custody time of 12 years, or until age 21, whichever occurs first; and that the court order Minor to participate in the County Institution Program, YOTP [Youthful Offender Treatment Program] and successfully complete all phases, follow all treatment requirements, and obey all rules. Over defense counsel’s objection, the court adopted the recommendation of YOTP commitment, “to meet [Minor’s] rehabilitative needs while keeping the community safe.” The court concluded that a lesser restrictive alternative would not be appropriate and declined to order a fixed term. The court noted that if Minor completed a “perfect” YOTP program, he would be held for about 10 months; otherwise, the maximum period would be until his 21st birthday. The court set a “YOTP review date” for December 2018, seven months away. The court of appeal affirmed the order, rejecting Minor’s contention that it impermissibly delegates to the probation officer the authority to determine the length of commitment. At review hearings, Minor may inform the juvenile court if he disagrees with the assessment of his progress. View "In re J.C." on Justia Law

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Castillero was charged with serious sexual offenses that occurred when he was 14-15 years old. The juvenile court found him unfit for juvenile adjudication and transferred the matter to a court of criminal jurisdiction. In adult/criminal court, Castillero pleaded guilty to four crimes and agreed to serve 40 years in prison. Before sentencing, the trial court denied Castillero’s request for transfer back to juvenile court for a hearing under the procedures set out in Proposition 57, which took effect in November 2016, after Castillero’s original juvenile court hearing. The court of appeal vacated. Proposition 57 significantly amended Welfare and Institutions Code sections 602 and 707. Now, if a prosecutor wishes to try an accused minor as an adult, the prosecutor must file a motion in the juvenile court requesting a transfer to adult/criminal court. The juvenile court must conduct a “transfer hearing.” Under prior law, the juvenile court was bound by a rebuttable presumption that the defendant was not fit for the juvenile court system; under current law, there is no such presumption. In a transfer hearing under current law, the court must consider five factors but has broad discretion in weighing them. The court noted that, because of Castillero’s age, two of the charges against him are not subject to transfer. View "People v. Castillero" on Justia Law

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Defendant, then a minor, was directly charged and tried as an adult. Defendant's convictions and sentence were affirmed on appeal, and the matter was remanded to the trial court for the limited purpose of permitting him to make a record of information relevant to his eventual youth offender parole hearing. After the appellate opinion was filed, but before remittitur issued, voters eliminated prosecutorial discretion to file charges against certain juvenile defendants directly in a court of criminal (adult) jurisdiction. Furthermore, after the remittitur issued and proceedings on remand took place, but while the appeal following those proceedings was pending, the Legislature gave trial courts discretion to strike firearm enhancements. The Court of Appeal held that, under the unique circumstances of this case, and in light of the California Supreme Court's conclusion that Proposition 57 applies to all juveniles whose cases were filed directly in adult court and whose convictions were not final at the time of its enactment, the trial court should have entertained and granted defendant's motion for a juvenile fitness/transfer hearing. The court also held that whether defendant may receive the benefit of Senate Bill No. 620 depends on the outcome of his juvenile fitness/transfer hearing. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "People v. Hargis" on Justia Law