Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Juvenile Law
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A juvenile wardship petition charged Noah with several crimes, such as motor vehicle burglaries and vandalism; he entered a plea admitting one felony motor vehicle burglary count. While Noah’s wardship was ongoing, a supplemental juvenile wardship petition alleged Noah, then 14 years old, committed attempted robbery and caused or permitted an elder or dependent adult to suffer. A video showed Jacqueline, the 88-year-old victim, leaving a restaurant. As she opens the car door, a young man runs up. Her husband, Philippe, got into the driver’s seat. When Jacqueline steps aside to let the young man pass, he grabs her purse and starts to run, dragging Jacqueline behind the car, where she falls, slams into the ground, and rolls, still holding the purse. A police officer took fingerprints from where the young man touched the car; they matched Noah’s. Jacqueline was still on the ground when the officer arrived; she was confused and bleeding.The juvenile court sustained the allegations and found the attempted robbery adjudication qualified as an offense under Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b) and committed Noah to a ranch facility for 12 months with a 180 day “aftercare period.” The court of appeal affirmed. Noah’s adjudication for attempted robbery is an offense described in Penal Code section 1203.09 and falls within Welfare and Institutions Code section 707(b). Substantial evidence showed Noah’s intent to rob Jacqueline and that he inflicted great bodily injury. View "In re Noah S." on Justia Law

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A juvenile wardship petition (Welfare and Institutions Code section 602(a)) alleged that Matthew had committed assault with a deadly weapon and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury; that Matthew had personally inflicted great bodily injury on the victim and had caused the victim to suffer great bodily injury resulting in paralysis and had personally used a deadly weapon, a knife. The juvenile court found true all of the allegations except for the paralysis enhancement; dismissed count two and the accompanying enhancement, at the request of the prosecutor; declared Matthew a ward of the court; and placed Matthew on probation with conditions.The court of appeal reversed, finding that Matthew’s pre-arrest statements to police were made during a custodial interrogation without the required Miranda warnings and that the admission of those statements was prejudicial. While Matthew was told at the start of the interrogation that he was not under arrest, and the police officers who were present did not handcuff him or unholster their weapons, the interview was initiated by police, who had just heard from another that Matthew had stabbed the victim. The entire interrogation was an attempt to get Matthew to admit that he stabbed the victim and to provide additional incriminating information. View "In re Matthew W." on Justia Law

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Defendant Joseph Jackson sought a youth offender parole hearing under Penal Code section 3051 as a result of his conviction in 1998 that included two counts of first-degree murder with multiple special circumstances, which counts resulted in a sentence of two consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Defendant was 19 years old when he committed the homicides. In his October 2019 motion, defendant argued section 3051 violated his equal protection rights because he allegedly “is entitled to the same protections as any other person who violated the law at the same age whether it was murder without special circumstances, robbery, kidnapping or any other crime.” The trial court in November 2019 denied the motion, finding that defendant was statutorily ineligible for relief and that there was a rational basis for carving out from section 3051 offenders such as defendant who were convicted of first-degree special circumstance murder and sentenced to LWOP. On appeal, defendant reiterated his trial court argument that section 3051’s exclusion of persons over 18 years of age with LWOP sentences from its parole hearing provisions violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. Upon de novo review, the Court of Appeal concluded the carve out to section 3051 for offenders such as defendant serving a LWOP sentence for special circumstance murder was not an equal protection violation. View "California v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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J.J. was alleged to have committed forcible lewd conduct with a minor. The juvenile court declared him incompetent to stand trial, suspended the delinquency proceedings, and ordered remediation services in juvenile hall. After 12 months, the court found that J.J. still had not attained competency. Although the maximum period for remediation under Welfare and Institutions Code section 709 is 12 months, the court ordered his continued confinement pending finalization of an exit order and post-release services to assist his reentry into the community. Section 709(h)(5)(C) allows confinement of certain juveniles for up to 18 months if “necessary and in the best interests of the minor and the public’s safety.”The court of appeal held that the juvenile court lacked authority to order J.J.'s continued confinement beyond the remediation period for a purpose other than restoration to competency, which would potentially violate his due process rights. Once the court determined that J.J. had not attained competency at the end of the statutory remediation period, no further confinement could be ordered given the record in J.J.’s case. The purpose of section 709 is to protect a minor from juvenile proceedings during incompetency and to provide remediation services with the goal of restoring the minor to competence. Section 709(h)(5) does not permit the involuntary confinement of a minor beyond the statutory remediation period for the purpose of arranging postrelease services that are not designed to restore competency. View "J.J. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Defendant Malcolm Brewer and codefendants Glen Conway and Shane Williams participated in a string of armed robberies and attempted robberies, mostly of gas stations and convenience stores, in November and December 2017. In many of the robberies and attempted robberies, defendant personally used a firearm by displaying it to or pointing it at the victims. Defendant and his codefendants were charged in a 20-count amended information with numerous counts of robbery and attempted robbery with firearm enhancement allegations as well as one count of felon in possession of a firearm. Williams entered into a plea agreement. Defendant and Conway proceeded to trial together before separate juries. Defendant’s jury found him guilty of 11 counts of second degree robbery, two counts of attempted second degree robbery, and one count of felon in possession of a firearm. The trial court sentenced defendant, who had a strike prior, to an aggregate determinate term of 63 years. On appeal, defendant characterized his sentence as the functional equivalent of a life sentence without parole imposed on a developmentally disabled person, and contended it was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of federal and California Constitutions. The Court of Appeal rejected defendant’s contention that such a sentence categorically violated those constitutional provisions in the same way as imposition of the death penalty as to developmentally disabled adults and imposition of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP) as to juvenile defendants. Accordingly, his convictions and sentence were affirmed. View "California v. Brewer" on Justia Law

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Appellant N.A. was a nonminor former dependent (NFD). While a minor, she lived with a legal guardian, who received financial aid (aid to families with dependent children-foster care, or AFDC-FC) on N.A.’s behalf. When N.A. was 17 years old, she moved out of the guardian’s home. The San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency was not informed of this circumstance, and AFDC-FC payments to the guardian continued past N.A.’s 18th birthday. The guardian provided some financial support to N.A. after she moved out, but at some point, the guardian stopped providing support altogether. Thereafter, N.A. petitioned to return to juvenile court jurisdiction and foster care, which would provide her with certain services and financial aid, under Welfare & Institutions Code section 388.1. At that time, the Agency became aware of N.A.’s prior living circumstance and determined that she and the guardian became ineligible for AFDC-FC payments when N.A. moved out of the guardian’s home before N.A. turned 18. The Agency sent notice of its decision to the guardian. Based on its determination that N.A. was not actually eligible to receive AFDC-FC payments after she turned 18, the Agency recommended denying her petition for reentry. The juvenile court denied N.A.’s petition for reentry, but ordered the Agency to notify N.A. directly of its eligibility determination so that she could pursue administrative remedies. On appeal, N.A. contended the juvenile court’s order was based on an erroneous interpretation of section 388.1 and related statutes. Alternatively, N.A. argued that the court should have decided the AFDC-FC eligibility issue because exhausting the administrative hearing process would be futile under the circumstances. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the order. View "In re N.A." on Justia Law

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The juvenile court asserted emergency jurisdiction over seven-year-old A.T., whose mentally ill mother had taken him from Washington state to California in violation of Washington family court orders. The court detained A.T., placed him temporarily with his father in Washington, and initiated contact with the Washington family court to address which state had jurisdiction under the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction and Enforcement Act (UCCJEA). In the meantime, the Wiyot Tribe intervened and, with A.T.’s mother asserted Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) required the court to retain jurisdiction in California.The juvenile court determined ICWA was inapplicable and that the Washington family court had continuing exclusive jurisdiction and dismissed the dependency action in favor of the family court proceedings in Washington. The court of appeal affirmed. The juvenile court properly applied the UCCJEA and dismissed the dependency action in favor of family court proceedings in Washington state after finding ICWA inapplicable because the child had been placed with his non-offending parent. ICWA and the related California statutory scheme expressly focus on the removal of Indian children from their homes and parents and placement in foster or adoptive homes. View "In re A.T." on Justia Law

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Father and Mother lived together for a few years and are the parents of Minor, who was born in 2014. By 2018, Mother was raising her children—Minor and Minor’s three older half-siblings—on her own, and she did not know Father’s whereabouts. The Alameda County Social Services Agency filed a juvenile dependency petition on behalf of the children, listing Father’s name but stating his address was unknown. On November 12, 2019, the Agency filed a status review report for the six-month review hearing; 13 months after the original petition was filed, the Agency first listed an address for Father as the California State Prison. Father subsequently was deemed Minor’s presumed father and was released from custody. The juvenile court summarily denied his motion under Welfare and Institutions Code section 388 to set aside prior findings, without a hearing.The court of appeal set aside the juvenile court’s order setting a hearing under section 366.26 to consider termination of parental rights, guardianship, or another permanent plan. Father sufficiently raised the possibility that the Agency failed to use due diligence to locate him and sufficiently stated a notice violation to warrant an evidentiary hearing. View "In re R.A." on Justia Law

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Defendant Joseph Jackson sought a youth offender parole hearing under California Penal Code section 3051 as a result of his conviction in 1998 that included two counts of first degree murder with multiple special circumstances, which counts resulted in a sentence of two consecutive terms of life without the possibility of parole (LWOP). Defendant was 19 years old when he committed the homicides. In his October 2019 motion, defendant argued section 3051 violated his equal protection rights because he allegedly “is entitled to the same protections as any other person who violated the law at the same age whether it was murder without special circumstances, robbery, kidnapping or any other crime.” The trial court denied the motion, finding that defendant was statutorily ineligible for relief and that there was a rational basis for carving out from section 3051 offenders such as defendant who are convicted of first degree special circumstance murder and sentenced to LWOP. On appeal, defendant reasserted section 3051’s exclusion of persons over 18 years of age with LWOP sentences from its parole hearing provisions violated the constitutional guarantee of equal protection. The Court of Appeal independently concluded the carve out to section 3051 for offenders such as defendant serving a LWOP sentence for special circumstance murder was not an equal protection violation. View "California v. Jackson" on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant D.C. (minor) appealed a court order sustaining the State's petition made pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 602. The petition alleged minor carried a concealed dirk or dagger on his person in violation of Penal Code section 21310. Minor argued, and the State conceded, reversal was called for because the juvenile court erred when it found the human trafficking affirmative defense set forth in Penal Code section 236.23 did not apply in his case. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed the juvenile court erred, but declined the parties’ invitation to find the requirements of the defense were met. The Court reversed and ordered a new hearing on the applicability of Penal Code section 236.23. View "In re D.C." on Justia Law