Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

by
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

by
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

by
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

by
The Supreme Court quashed the Second District Court of Appeal's decision holding, in pertinent part, that the trial court erred in failing to notify J.A.R. of his asserted right to a hearing to challenge the $100 public defender fee imposed at sentencing, holding that the Second District erred in striking the public defender's fee.The trial court adjudicated J.A.R. delinquent for committing two felonies and a misdemeanor. In addition, the court imposed a $100 public defender fee under Fla. Stat. 938.29 without apprising J.A.R. of the fee or informing him of the right to a hearing to contest the fee. The Second District struck the fee on the grounds that the trial court did not give J.A.R. notice of his right to a hearing to contest the fee. The Supreme Court quashed the decision below, holding that since the $100 public defender fee was the statutory minimum under section 938.29(1)(a), the trial court was not required to provide notice and hearing as to that fee. View "State v. J.A.R." on Justia Law

by
Dequan Holmes appealed his convictions for felony murder, aggravated assault, and two counts of possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime for the shooting death of Javares Alston and the non-fatal shooting of Danielle Willingham. He argued on appeal that the evidence was insufficient to convict him and that the trial court committed plain error when it charged the jury to “consider with great care and caution” Holmes’s out-of-court statements. Holmes, a juvenile at the time the crime was committed, also challenged his sentence of life without parole, arguing that it violated the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution as interpreted by the United States Supreme Court. The Georgia Supreme Court held the evidence was sufficient to convict Holmes and that any error in the trial court’s instruction to the jury did not amount to plain error because the instruction did not affect the outcome of his trial. The Supreme Court also concluded Holmes’ sentence of life without parole was not prohibited by United States Supreme Court precedent, especially in the light of that Court’s recent decision in Jones v. Mississippi, ____ U.S. ___ (141 S.Ct 1307 (2021)). View "Holmes v. Georgia" on Justia Law

by
A minor convicted of driving under the influence (DUI) argued that the statute that excluded misdemeanor traffic violations from juvenile court jurisdiction violated her right to equal protection under the Alaska Constitution. She argued that the mandatory jail sentence for first DUI offenders was unfairly different than the dispositions for other misdemeanors in the juvenile code. And she argued that it was unfair for felony DUI offenses to be charged in juvenile court when misdemeanor offenses were not. The Alaska Supreme Court concluded that because driving was an adult activity, the legislature could reasonably decide to treat misdemeanor traffic violations consistently to promote public safety while also reasonably choosing to protect juvenile offenders from the harsh collateral consequences of a felony conviction. The Court, therefore, concluded the statute was constitutional and affirmed the judgment of the district court. View "Watson v. Alaska" on Justia Law

by
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

by
K.V. appealed a juvenile court memorandum opinion, issued after remand, that denied his motion to suppress evidence. K.V. was charged and adjudicated a delinquent child for possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia in January 2019. K.V. moved to suppress the evidence gathered after the stop. Following a hearing on the motion to suppress, the juvenile court issued an order denying K.V.’s motion. K.V. appealed, arguing the warrantless search violated the Fourth Amendment. The North Dakota Supreme Court reversed and remanded for reconsideration because the juvenile court did not make specific findings on the reasonableness of the pat down and did not identify what exception to the warrant requirement justified the search. Following remand, the juvenile court issued the memorandum opinion at issue here. The court concluded the pat down was justified based on officer safety, but determined the further search was not supported by the record for officer safety, because the officer did not identify what he felt during the pat down. However, relying on precedent from another jurisdiction that did not require individualized suspicion to search a passenger when the odor of marijuana is emanating from a vehicle, the court found, that based on what he saw, heard and smelled, the officer believed he had probable cause to search K.V. for marijuana and related paraphernalia. The court concluded, “based on the totality of the circumstances that Officer Engen had probable cause to search the person of K.V. for illegal drugs and the search was legal.” The North Dakota Supreme Court concluded the juvenile court erred in concluding the officers had probable cause to conduct a warrantless search of K.V. under the totality of the circumstances, and reversed the juvenile court’s memorandum opinion denying K.V.’s motion to suppress and the order adjudicating K.V. a delinquent child. View "Interest of K.V." on Justia Law

by
The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the juvenile court finding that Victor L. was not competent to be adjudicated and dismissing the State's petition alleging that Victor had been habitually truant from school and fell within the meaning of section 43-247(3)(b), holding that the juvenile court did not err.After a competency review, the court found that Victor was not competent and dismissed the truancy proceeding on that basis. The Supreme Court affirmed the juvenile court's preadjudication dismissal of the truancy petition based on Victor's lack of competency to participate in the proceedings, holding (1) the plain language of Neb. Rev. Stat. 43-258 recognizes, as a matter of public policy, the juveniles accused of delinquency and status offenses have a statutory right to be competent to participate in adjudication proceedings; and (2) the juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in dismissing the petition. View "In re Interest of Victor L." on Justia Law

by
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