Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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Defendant appealed from the juvenile court's adjudication order declaring him a ward of the court and sustained a petition filed by the People alleging that defendant had committed vandalism charges based on his "tagging" of buildings. The court agreed with defendant that there was insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court's finding on the felony vandalism count, under Penal Code 594, subdivision (b)(1) & (2), that defendant caused $400 or more in property damage, which was the amount of damage necessary to punish vandalism as a felony rather than as a misdemeanor. In this case, the court concluded that the people provided insufficient evidence of the actual cost of repair to the property damage defendant caused, and the graffiti cost removal list failed to satisfy the criteria for use of average costs in restitution cases. Accordingly, the court reversed in part and remanded. View "In re Kyle T." on Justia Law

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Proposition 57 eliminated the State's ability to directly file charges against a juvenile offender in adult court and instead authorized the State to file “a motion to transfer the minor from juvenile court to a court of criminal jurisdiction.” Prior to the passage of Proposition 57, the State directly filed a complaint against real party in interest, a minor, in adult court under the authority of former section 707(d)(2) of the Welfare and Institutions Code. A preliminary hearing took place May 26, 2016; on June 10, 2016, the State filed an information charging real party in interest with felony violations of Penal Code sections 209(b)(1), 286(c)(2)(B), and 288a(c)(2)(B). On November 16, 2016, real party in interest filed a motion requesting “a fitness hearing in juvenile court pursuant to recently enacted legislation via Proposition 57.” After considering written opposition from the State, who argued Proposition 57 could not be applied to real party in interest's case retroactively, the trial court granted the motion on November 29, 2016. Noting that the issue was “novel,” the trial court stayed its order until December 20, 2016, so the State could seek appellate intervention. The State's petition in this case followed three days later, seeking an emergency stay and asserted there would be “widespread confusion and continued litigation” if the trial court's order in this case stood. In addition, the petition introduced evidence that there were 57 other direct-file cases pending, and that 10 motions to transfer to juvenile court had already been received. The Court of Appeal denied the State's petition and published this opinion because "we recognize that trial courts may need guidance deciding whether and how to apply Proposition 57 to cases that were directly filed in adult court before its passage. We caution that we need not and therefore do not opine about anything other than the retroactivity of the portion of Proposition 57 that requires the juvenile court to permit trial of a minor in an adult criminal court. We do not address the equal protection argument real party in interest advanced in his informal response. In addition, although the People asked for advice about how courts should handle direct-filed cases that are transferred to juvenile court and then back to adult court after a successful motion under Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (a), we do not purport to guide trial courts regarding other procedural aspects of cases against juveniles now that Proposition 57 has passed. Any such issues are best left for cases that squarely present them." View "California v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Cervantes was 14 years old when he attacked a 13-year-old girl and her 20-month-old brother. After breaking into their home, he stabbed them repeatedly as they slept, raped and sodomized the girl, forced her to orally copulate him, and passed out. He had been drinking heavily. His defense rested on voluntary intoxication to negate specific intent. He was convicted of 15 charges, including sex offenses, first-degree burglary, and two counts each of attempted murder, torture, and aggravated mayhem. He received a prison sentence of 50 years to life under Penal Code 667.61, a consecutive 11-year term for one attempted murder (sections 187, 664), plus a consecutive life term for the other attempted murder. The court of appeal reversed as to the eight specific intent counts, noting serious deficiencies in counsel’s performance, and affirmed as to the general intent crimes. The court concluded that Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, requires that the case be remanded for a “fitness hearing” to determine whether adult criminal court or juvenile court will handle any retrial on the reversed counts and sentencing. The court noted that a sentence requiring Cervantes to serve at least 66 years in prison before he would first become eligible for parole exceeds his life expectancy, and is the functional equivalent of life without parole, in violation of the Eighth Amendment. View "People v. Cervantes" on Justia Law

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The San Francisco County Human Services Agency filed a Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 petition on behalf of the Minor. At an initial detention hearing, Father appeared. The court appointed counsel. Counsel asked to set the matter for a contested detention hearing but explained she could not proceed immediately because her witnesses were not available and because she was in trial in another department. After a discussion about a continuance, the court found there had been a prima facie showing there was a substantial danger to Minor’s physical and emotional well-being and there were no reasonable means by which Minor’s physical and emotional safety could be safeguarded without removing Minor from Father’s custody. The court ordered Minor temporarily detained and approved Minor’s placement with his mother. Father’s counsel filed a declaration and disqualification motion, which the court found untimely because the court had “made substantive rulings on the detention.” Father sought review of the denial of his disqualification motion. The court of appeal granted the petition, finding that the court’s rulings did not preclude Father from making his Code of Civil Procedure section 170.6 challenge because they did not “involv[e] a determination of contested fact issues related to the merits.” View "Johnny W. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The minor was 13 years old when he engaged sexual conduct with a four-year-old boy and seven-year-old girl. Pursuant to a negotiated agreement under Welfare and Institutions Code section 6021, the minor admitted one count of conduct that if committed by an adult would constitute lewd or lascivious conduct on a child under age 14 (Pen. Code 288(a)); two other counts were dismissed. The parties appeared several times before Judge Johnson for “restitution setting.” The case was set for a contested hearing on victim restitution six months after the disposition hearing. On the day of the contested restitution hearing, the minor’s counsel sought a continuance because Johnson was absent. The visiting judge denied the request, conducted a hearing, and ordered the minor to pay $12,501.39. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the juvenile court violated People v. Arbuckle in denying the minor’s request to have Judge Johnson preside over the restitution hearing. Arbuckle does not apply to juvenile court restitution hearings, but even if it applied, any error was harmless because the minor received a fair hearing and did not demonstrate that the restitution was excessive. The court upheld restitution for the male victim’s bedroom furniture, clothing, and costs associated with a therapy dog. View "In re Cristian S." on Justia Law

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The Mendocino County Department of Social Services filed a Welfare and Institutions Code section 3001 petition concerning three minors, alleging their mother was unable to care for them, and that Father’s whereabouts were unknown. Mother and Minors were enrolled members of the Hopland Band of Pomo Indians. The case was governed by the Indian Child Welfare Act (25 U.S.C. 1901). The Department located Father in a Florida jail. He requested services. Father was released and submitted evidence that, while incarcerated, Father had completed substance abuse classes and a dog training program. The court sustained an allegation that Father “has a pattern of criminal behaviors that includes a drug-related arrest and conviction in 2014 that severely impairs his ability to care for” his children. He had not seen Minors in more than five years nor spoken to them in two years. At a six-month hearing, Father argued reasonable services were not provided, citing a delay in creating Father’s case plan and failure to provide drug testing or regular phone visitation. The court found reasonable services had been provided; that Father had not complied; and the Department made active efforts to prevent the Indian family's breakup. The court ordered continued services with weekly telephone visits. The court of appeals reversed, finding that, although the likelihood of reunification may be low, the Department was obliged to provide services, regardless of Father’s out-of-state location View "In re T.W." on Justia Law

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N.S. was placed in foster care at age 11. After she turned 18 in 2014, she remained under the jurisdiction of the juvenile court as a nonminor dependent. (Welf. & Inst. Code 11400(v)), having been diagnosed with posttraumatic stress disorder, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and depressive disorder. She was participating in therapy and taking medication. The report indicated that N.S. would be enrolled in an educational program. A 2015 report indicated that N.S. qualified for extended foster care because her mental health, prevented her from participating in education or an employment program. In 2016, the Agency recommended that N.S.’s dependency be dismissed because her exact whereabouts were unknown and she had not participated in any services. N.S. had admitted she was using methamphetamine. She was not interested in treatment referrals or placement. She was meeting with her therapist, Chan, sporadically. At the contested hearing, both N.S. and Chan testified. Counsel asked Chan about N.S.’s diagnosis; she and N.S. asserted the psychotherapist-patient privilege. The juvenile court concluded the privilege did not apply because N.S. had put her mental state at issue. The court of appeal disagreed, rejecting an argument that the Agency and the court will be unable to verify the eligibility requirement without information from Chan. It is the Agency’s position that it is N.S.’s substance abuse, and not her mental health condition, that prevents her from meeting the criteria. View "N.S. v. Superior Ct." on Justia Law

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Q.R. recorded photographs and video on his cellular phone of consensual sexual activity between himself and Jane Doe, both under 18 years old. He later extorted money from Doe by threatening to disclose the recordings to other students at their high school. After Doe told her father, who reported to the police, Q.R. was charged with forcible rape. He later admitted to felony possession of child pornography (Pen. Code 311.11(a)) and extortion (Pen. Code 518, 520) and was placed on juvenile probation. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that a probation condition requiring Q.R. to submit all electronic devices under his control to warrantless search by the probation department and to provide passwords necessary to access information on those devices is unconstitutionally overbroad. Given the direct relationship between Q.R.'s offenses and his use of an electronic device, the search condition is appropriately tailored. View "In re Q.R." on Justia Law

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In lieu of adjudging minor J.G. a ward of the court based on his commission of trespass and felony vandalism, the juvenile court granted minor deferred entry of judgment and placed him on probation with terms and conditions including payment of restitution to the victim. Because minor eventually satisfied the terms and conditions of his probation with the exception of ordered restitution, the juvenile court terminated probation, dismissed the wardship petition and converted the restitution order to a civil judgment. Minor appealed that order, arguing: (1) the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to review the juvenile court’s order because the order was a judgment within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code section 800(a); (2) a juvenile court can only convert a restitution order to a civil judgment if it has adjudged a minor a ward of the court; and (3) the juvenile court misapplied the law in assessing minor’s ability to pay restitution. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the challenged order was a judgment within the meaning of section 800(a) because the juvenile court rendered a final determination of the rights of the parties in the wardship proceeding; and (2) even if a juvenile court has not adjudged a minor a ward of the court, it can convert an unfulfilled restitution order to a civil judgment when it terminates a minor’s deferred entry of judgment probation and dismisses the wardship petition. In the unpublished portion of this opinion, the Court concluded: (3) minor has not established a misapplication of the law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the juvenile court. View "In re J.G." on Justia Law

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Mother‘s childhood was marked by abuse and neglect. When she was 13 years old she began an abusive relationship with Carl, a 20-year-old dropout. Their child, Carl Jr., was born when Mother was 14. While still a minor, Mother left Carl, started a relationship with Kevin, and gave birth to Harmony in 2012 and Melody in 2013. The family, including both fathers, had at least 13 referrals for physical and emotional abuse and neglect before Melody died in 2015, as a result of acute methadone toxicity. The Agency filed petitions on behalf of the surviving children, alleging failure to protect because: parents allowed them to live in a home where dangerous medications were within easy access despite Carl Jr.‘s earlier methadone poisoning; Mother failed to adequately supervise the children by frequently leaving them with Grandmother or Carl Sr. despite earlier incidents and warnings from the Agency; and Kevin was living in a residential facility. The court found that Mother‘s neglect contributed to Melody's death and that there was no clear and convincing evidence that reunification services were in the children’s best interest. The court of appeal upheld the court‘s jurisdictional findings and the bypass of services to Mother, but reversed the dismissal of Carl Jr.‘s dependency case. View "In re Carl H." on Justia Law