Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

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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

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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

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A.S. was adjudicated a juvenile delinquent under the Federal Juvenile Delinquency Act (“FJDA”) after the district court concluded that, when he was seventeen years old, he knowingly engaged in a sexual act with a victim, K.P., while she was incapable of appraising the nature of the conduct. The court ordered A.S. to be committed to eighteen months’ custodial detention to be followed by twenty-four months’ juvenile-delinquent supervision. On appeal, A.S. raised three challenges: (1) the district court erred in limiting cross-examination and excluding extrinsic evidence concerning a prior allegation of sexual assault that K.P. made; (2) the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that he knew that K.P. was incapable of appraising the nature of the sexual conduct, which he says was an element of the offense; and (3) the district court erred in imposing a dispositional sentence on him of custodial detention. The Tenth Circuit concluded: (1) the district court’s actions accorded with the Federal Rules of Evidence and did not violate A.S.’s constitutional rights; (2) there was ample evidence for a reasonable factfinder to determine A.S. engaged in sexual conduct with K.P. while he knew she was asleep and drunk; and (3) the sentence did not constitute an abuse of the district court's broad sentencing discretion. Thus, the Tenth Circuit affirmed judgment. View "United States v. A.S." on Justia Law

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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

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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

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A.M. (juvenile) appealed an unpublished Court of Appeals decision affirming her conviction for possession of a controlled substance. She argued: (1) it was manifest constitutional error for the trial court to admit a detention center inventory form where she signed a sworn statement indicating that a backpack, which was discovered to contain methamphetamine, was her property because it violated her right against self-incrimination; and (2) the affirmative defense of unwitting possession was an unconstitutional burden-shifting scheme that violated her due process rights. After review, the Washington Supreme Court held the admission of the inventory form was manifest constitutional error because it violated her right against self-incrimination and warranted reversal because it was not harmless error. Because the Court found reversible constitutional error, it declined to consider A.M.'s due process argument. The case was remanded back to the trial court for further proceedings. View "Washington v. A.M." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals affirmed the holding of the court of special appeals affirming the judgment of the juvenile court finding that sixteen-year-old S.K. was involved in distributing child pornography, holding that a minor may be adjudicated delinquent under Maryland's child pornography and obscenity statutes as the "person" who is a distributor of child pornography and a displayer of obscene matter when she is also the minor participant in the sex act. S.K. sent a video to her two best friends that showed herself performing fellatio in a male. When the video was later distributed to other students S.K. was charged under Md. Code Crim. Law (CR) 11-207(a)(4) and 11-203(b)(1)(ii). After an adjuratory hearing, the juvenile court found S.K. involved as to distributing child pornography and displaying an obscene item to a minor. The court of special appeals reversed in part, holding (1) a minor legally engaged in consensual sexual activity is not exempted from CR 11-207(a)(4); and (2) the cellphone video was not an "item" covered within CR 11-203(b)(1)(ii). The Court of Appeals reversed in part, holding (1) the plain language of CR 11-207(a)(4) subsumes situations where a minor produces and distributes pornographic material of himself or herself; and (2) S.K.'s conduct fell within that contemplated by CR 11-203. View "In re S.K." on Justia Law

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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

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Indiana statutes provided a fast and confidential judicial bypass procedure that is supposed to allow a small fraction of pregnant, unemancipated minors seeking abortions to obtain them without the consent of or notice to their parents, guardians, or custodians, Ind. Code 16-34-2-4(b). In 2017, Act 404 added a parental notification requirement: Parents must be given prior notice of the planned abortion unless the judge also finds such notice is not in the minor’s “best interests” unlike the judicial bypass of parental consent, which may be based on either maturity or best interests. The district court issued a preliminary injunction against enforcement of the new notice requirements, finding it likely to “create an undue burden for a sufficiently large fraction of mature, abortion-seeking minors in Indiana.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Indiana’s notice law creates a substantial risk of a practical veto over a mature yet unemancipated minor’s right to an abortion. This practical veto appears likely to impose an undue burden for the unemancipated minors who seek to obtain an abortion without parental involvement via the judicial bypass. Indiana has made no effort to support with evidence its claimed justifications or to undermine with evidence Planned Parenthood’s showing about the likely effects of the law. View "Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc. v. Adams" on Justia Law

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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