Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
by
After a spree of San Pablo parking lot robberies and purse snatchings, officers found the victims' property in a vehicle occupied by 17-year-old Alonzo and two others. Alonzo admitted to grand theft of a person, taking property valued at more than $950, The court dismissed the other charges, ordered that Alonzo be placed on GPS monitoring and released to his mother's custody, and transferred the case to Contra Costa County. That court ordered that Alonzo was to have no contact with his “co-responsibles.” A supplemental petition alleged that Alonzo committed three additional felonies during the crime spree. Alonzo expressed remorse, blamed peer pressure, denied using alcohol and reported that he had been smoking marijuana once a day for chronic migraines. This was Alonzo’s first referral. The disposition order placed him on probation. Alonzo challenged a probation condition: In light of ... concern about your association in Oakland, … you must submit your cell phone or any other electronic device under your control to a search of any medium of communication reasonably likely to reveal whether you’re complying with the terms of your probation with or without a search warrant at any time ... text messages, voicemail messages, photographs, e-mail accounts, and other social media accounts and applications. You shall provide access codes ... upon request .” The court of appeal upheld the decision to impose an electronic search condition but concluded the condition sweeps too broadly and remanded. View "In re Alonzo M." on Justia Law

by
S.L. was 15 years old at the time of the murder. The prosecution charged S.L. with murder and attempted murder and filed a juvenile wardship petition, alleging that S.L. personally and intentionally discharged a firearm in the commission of the offense and that S.L. was a principal in the offense. Proposition 57 requires prosecutors charging a minor aged 14 or older at the time of the offense to seek juvenile court approval to transfer the minor to adult criminal court. In 2018, SB 1391 prohibited the transfer of 14- and 15-year-old minors to criminal court in most cases. After the court refused to hold a transfer hearing concerning S.L., the prosecution challenged SB 1391 as impermissibly eliminating a court’s ability to transfer jurisdiction over a 15-year-old charged with murder to adult criminal court. The court ruled that SB 1391 is constitutional and did impact S.L.’s case. The court of appeal denied the District Attorney’s petition for mandamus relief. SB 1391 is constitutional; it is consistent with and furthers the intent of Proposition 57. “[T]he intent of the electorate in approving Proposition 57 was to broaden the number of minors who could potentially stay within the juvenile justice system, with its primary emphasis on rehabilitation rather than punishment.” View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
In 2017, a juvenile wardship petition was filed (Welfare and Institutions Code 602(a)), alleging that A.J. committed misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter without gross negligence. The probation department supported A.J.'s request for informal supervision under section 654 in lieu of adjudging him a ward of the court, noting that A.J. was remorseful, had no prior delinquency history or significant disciplinary record, had been receptive to receiving services and had taken the initiative to obtain services, and had familial support. The court rejected the request, reasoning that A.J. was statutorily ineligible for informal supervision because “[r]estitution can clearly be over [$1,000] in this case” given the likely burial and other expenses. The court rejected arguments that no permissible claims for restitution had been made and that this case arose from “a tragic accident.” The probation department unsuccessfully recommended informal probation (section 725). The juvenile court adjudged A.J. a ward of the court, placed him on formal probation and ordered him to pay restitution to be determined. A.J. completed his probationary term and the court dismissed the petition, terminated his wardship and ordered his juvenile record sealed. The court of appeal affirmed. The statute does not require the submission of claims, or the presentation of evidence of restitution in excess of $1,000, before the juvenile court may apply the presumption of ineligibility. View "In re A.J." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
by
A.W. committed five counts of felony vandalism. The court declared minor a ward of the state and ordered him to serve 37 days in juvenile hall. The sole question on appeal was whether the evidence supported a finding that, for each count, “the amount of defacement, damage, or destruction [was] four hundred dollars ($400) or more,” as required to elevate the crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. The Court of Appeal determined the only competent testimony on that issue came from an employee of the City of Palmdale who helped prepare an analysis of the average cost to clean up an instance of graffiti. The Court determined: (1) use of an average, by itself, was not enough to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the amount of damage inflicted by minor was equal to the average cleanup cost, rather than some other number; (2) the calculation included the cost of law enforcement, which, though proper in certain restitution settings, was not a proper consideration in assessing the damage minor inflicted under the applicable statute; and (3) Palmdale’s methodology for calculating the average cost is flawed. The Court reversed adjudication in part with direction to reduce the felony counts to misdemeanors. View "In re A.W." on Justia Law

by
The Court of Appeal affirmed the juvenile court's finding that R.C. had committed an unauthorized invasion of privacy pursuant to Penal Code section 647, subdivision (j)(3)(A). The court applied the plain meaning of the word "concealed," and held that "concealed" means "to prevent disclosure or recognition of," and "to place out of sight." Similarly, Merriam-Webster defines "concealed" as "kept out of sight or hidden from view." In this case, the court held that substantial evidence demonstrated that R.C. committed the offense of unauthorized invasion of privacy when he used a concealed cellphone to secretly video-record K.V. in a state of full or partial undress, in a place where she had a reasonable expectation of privacy, with the intent to invade her privacy. In this case. R.C. did not tell K.V. about his intent to video-record them until after he had begun recording, he positioned the cellphone behind K.V. where it was hidden from her view, and K.V. did not realize the cellphone was present until R.C. announced he was recording and she turned her head. View "In re R.C." on Justia Law

by
N.C., born in 2000, and another minor sexually abused a clearly-intoxicated 17-year-old female high school student outside a private house party after a homecoming dance. The juvenile court entered a dispositional order committing N.C. to the Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) for a maximum period of confinement of nine years following his admission to forcible oral copulation and sexual battery. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting N.C.’s argument that there was no evidence the commitment would be of probable benefit to him or that a less restrictive placement would be ineffective or inappropriate. Conflicting evidence did not render the juvenile court’s commitment order an abuse of discretion or warrant its reversal. The juvenile court found that certain testimony “lacked foundation” and was “clearly biased,” because the witness’s organization would benefit financially were minor placed there. The juvenile court properly considered the proposed less restrictive alternatives before finding them inappropriate or ineffective in his case; the court was appropriately focused on minor’s individual circumstances in light of the potential reformative, educational, rehabilitative, treatment and disciplinary benefits of a DJJ commitment, as opposed to one of the alternative programs. View "In re N.C." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law
by
Nicole, age 13 became a dependent of the juvenile court. Nicole suffered from emotional and behavioral problems and later became “[a] dependent minor who turns 18 years of age” with a permanent plan of long-term foster care, continuing under the juvenile court’s jurisdiction because she agreed that she would continue her education. The designation continued despite her noncompliance, a pregnancy, and living in an unapproved home with a boyfriend who had a history of selling illegal drugs and committing domestic violence. When Nicole turned 20, the Agency recommended that the court dismiss Nicole’s dependency, citing failure to participate in services. In a special writ proceeding, the court of appeal directed the juvenile court to vacate its order requiring Nicole’s therapist to testify about confidential communications relating to whether Nicole has a qualifying mental condition. The juvenile court later terminated its dependency jurisdiction because she had reached the age of 21. The court dismissed Nicole’s case. In her dependency case, Nicole sought an award of attorney’s fees under Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, which codifies the private attorney general doctrine exception. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of the motion; section 1021.5 fees are not recoverable in a dependency proceeding. View "In re Nicole S." on Justia Law

by
In 2018, the court of appeal held that a juvenile court’s order committing a minor to the Department of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) must be supported by “some specific evidence in the record of the programs at the DJF expected to benefit a minor.” Citing that case, A.M. challenged the juvenile court’s order committing him to the DJF. A.M. had admitted to driving his brother to a park, knowing his brother intended to commit murder. The court of appeal upheld the commitment order, noting testimony by a DJF official about the programs offered by DJF and DJF publications further describing the programs. The juvenile court could reasonably find that certain DJF programs would benefit Minor: group sessions with other youths, a program to help identify negative peers, impulse control therapy, anger management, and/or individual therapy. Minor apparently argued that he has no need for any of these programs, based on the descriptions in the letters from his family and others. The juvenile court found otherwise, discounting those descriptions as irreconcilable with the nature and circumstances of the offense and with Minor’s performance on probation. Substantial evidence supports that finding. View "In re A.M." on Justia Law

by
For the reasons stated in People v. Superior Court (T.D.), the Court of Appeal rejected the district attorney's claim that Senate Bill No. 1391 unconstitutionally amended Proposition 57. The court also addressed issues not before the court in T.D., and held that Senate Bill No. 1391 is not an unconstitutional amendment of Proposition 21, the Gang Violence and Juvenile Crime Prevention Act of 1998 (Proposition 21); is not unconstitutionally vague; and applies retroactively. In this case, the court held that the murder charge against real party in interest I.R. allegedly committed when he was age 15 cannot be transferred to criminal court based on a separate felony offense he allegedly committed when he was age 17. Therefore, the court denied the petition for writ of prohibition and/or mandate. View "People v. Superior Court (I.R.)" on Justia Law

by
Senate Bill No. 1391 does not unconstitutionally amend Proposition 57. Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, eliminated a prosecutor's ability to directly file charges in criminal (adult) court against minors who were 14 years of age or older at the time of their alleged offenses, and instead required prosecutors to obtain juvenile court approval to do so. SB 1391 prohibits the transfer of 14- and 15-year-old offenders to criminal court in virtually all circumstances. The Court of Appeal held that voters intended Proposition 57 to extend as broadly as possible; the amendatory language of section 5 of the Act was ambiguous; and, when the court construed the language and the Act as a whole consistently with the voters' intent, SB 1391 was constitutional. Accordingly, the court discharged the order to show cause previously issued and denied the petition for writ of mandate. View "People v. Superior Court (T.D.)" on Justia Law