Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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V.D., a worker at the Pittsburg Marina, saw G.B. with other young men near the maintenance yard, through a cyclone fence. He went inside a building where he could see them through an open door approximately 30 feet away. V.D. saw G.B., standing, while the others were sitting, dancing and waving a gun in the air. About five minutes later, police arrived, detained the young men, and discovered a shotgun and a revolver in the area where the young men had been. V.D. identified G.B. as the person who had been holding the gun. Officer Baker and V.D. both testified that G.B. was wearing white, but photographs of the individuals detained by police show him wearing black. G.B. was placed on juvenile probation after the court sustained allegations he possessed a concealable firearm (Penal Code section 29610). The court of appeal affirmed in part, rejecting an argument that the jurisdictional finding must be reversed because the eyewitness identification was unreliable. The court struck a probation condition requiring that G.B. “have peaceful contact only with all law enforcement” as unconstitutionally vague and narrowed a condition that G.B. stay away from any school campus unless enrolled to be consistent with state law concerning visiting school grounds. View "In re G.B." on Justia Law

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Minor, age 15, fell asleep in class, admitted he smoked marijuana the night before, and acquiesced to being searched, volunteering that he had a knife. The assistant principal found a folding pocket knife with a three-inch blade, rolling papers, and lighters. The Napa County DA filed a wardship petition (Welfare and Institutions Code 602) alleging a misdemeanor. Minor admitted the offense. The matter was continued. Two weeks later, Minor was arrested for smoking marijuana. The court declared Minor a ward of the court, placed him on probation, to be served in his mother’s home, and prohibited knowingly using or possessing alcohol or controlled substances, with a testing requirement. A second petition alleged that Minor tested positive for, and admitted using, marijuana and tested positive for Xanax. Two months later, another petition alleged that Minor failed to attend school, used marijuana, was discharged from a treatment program for noncompliance, and admitted using alcohol. Minor admitted using marijuana and alcohol. Before the dispositional hearing, the probation officer reported Minor had tested negative for controlled substances, was doing well in school, and had begun working. The treatment program advised that Minor was “doing very well.” The court continued him as a ward with a new probation condition allowing searches of his electronic devices and requiring him to disclose necessary passwords. The court of appeal struck the electronics search condition as unconstitutionally overbroad. View "In re D.B." on Justia Law

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On the evening of January 12, 2017, Deputy Slawson was on duty at the Barstow Sheriff’s Department. At about 7:30 p.m., she was asked by a fellow deputy to watch a juvenile he had detained (minor R.W.) during a stolen vehicle investigation until her mother arrived to pick her up. The department had a policy which required minors in sheriff’s custody to be kept at the station for their safety until they could be released to their parent or another authorized adult. At the time she was turned over to Deputy Slawson’s custody, minor was no longer under investigation and no charges were being filed against her. Deputy Slawson escorted minor into the report-writing room and told her to have a seat until her mother arrived. As Deputy Slawson was doing paperwork on an unrelated matter, R.W. began speaking to her about the vehicle theft. R.W. said she stole the car, and she wanted to speak with the deputy who made the initial traffic stop and arrested the driver. R.W. asked to use Deputy Slawson’s personal cell phone to call the deputy, but Deputy Slawson refused. Minor became frustrated and increasingly impatient. Deputy Slawson then asked R.W. some basic questions about the case. When it became clear from R.W.'s responses that she had no involvement in the car theft, Deputy Slawson told minor that she did not need to lie to make herself a suspect in that case. R.W. got upset, grabbed her bags, and walked out of the room; she refused to comply with the deputy's commands to return. Another female deputy helped Deputy Slawson stop R.W. from leaving, and a third deputy eventually came to assist as well. R.W. resisted the deputies’ efforts, and she was handcuffed. R.W. was seated back in the report-writing room but was not arrested. After about 10 minutes, the handcuffs were removed. R.W.'s mother arrived 15 to 20 minutes later and took custody. Deputy Slawson issued R.W. a citation for resisting a peace officer, and a juvenile court subsequently found true the allegation that minor violated Penal Code section 148(a)(1). R.W. appealed her conviction, arguing insufficient evidence to support the juvenile court’s finding, because her custody was unlawful at the time Deputy Slawson restrained her from leaving. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction. View "In re R.W." on Justia Law

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Father was accused of molesting his 13-year-old stepdaughter and grooming his eight-year-old daughter, Daniela, for sexual abuse. He challenged an order finding dependency jurisdiction over Daniela, awarding sole custody to Daniela’s mother, and dismissing the case. He argued that he was denied due process because the juvenile court refused to require Daniela and his stepdaughter to testify at the combined jurisdictional and dispositional hearing. The court of appeal affirmed. A witness may be excused from testifying when found “unavailable” due to a physical or mental illness or infirmity, including when the witness is a victim of a crime and would experience sufficient trauma if forced to testify, Evid. Code 240(a)(3), (c). Case law has recognized an even broader basis for excusing a child from testifying in a dependency proceeding. A juvenile court can, consistent with a parent’s due process rights, refuse to compel the testimony of a child who is otherwise available when “the possible benefit derivable from the testimony would not warrant the psychological injury it would cause." The court explicitly extended that principle to jurisdictional and dispositional hearings and concluded that the juvenile court properly applied it. A clinician who had conducted stepdaughter’s Child and Adolescent Needs and Strengths assessment stated that stepdaughter was “experiencing significant psychological symptoms,” and had a “history of self-harm and suicidal ideation.” View "In re Daniela G." on Justia Law

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The juvenile court found minor E.P. committed second degree burglary from the Anaheim ICE public ice hockey facility in 2015. E.P. was also charged with possession of graffiti tools (court 2), receiving stolen property (counts 4-6), and illegal possession of an alcoholic beverage (count 7). E.P. contended his burglary finding (count 1) should have been reversed because the evidence showed he committed the new crime defined by the Legislature as shoplifting, but not burglary. Furthermore, he argued reversal of counts 4-6 because he could not be convicted of both shoplifting and receiving the same property. To E.P.'s argument on counts 4-6, the Court of Appeal agreed and therefore reverse the findings on these counts; the Court affirmed count 2. View "In re E.P." on Justia Law

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Petitioner, J.N., 17 years old at the time of the alleged offenses, was charged with murder. The evidence presented at the hearing in juvenile court established he did not kill anyone. The murder was committed while J.N. and two other minors, including the killer, were tagging (making graffiti) in a rival gang’s claimed territory. The killing occurred when the three minors were surprised by an adult rival gang member. The rival approached S.C., who pulled out a gun to scare the man. Undeterred, the man grabbed the gun in S.C.’s hand and a struggle ensued. Shots were fired as they wrestled over the gun. J.N. and the other minor stood frozen nearby. After the passage of Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, the superior court suspended criminal proceedings and certified J.N. to the juvenile court to determine whether he should be treated in the juvenile court system or prosecuted as an adult. The juvenile court determined J.N. was not suitable for treatment in the juvenile court. J.N. filed a petition for a writ of mandate/prohibition, arguing the court abused its discretion in applying Welfare and Institutions Code section 707. The Court of Appeal determined a trial court must consider five statutory factors in making its decision whether the minor should be tried as an adult. Relevant here were two : (1) the circumstances and gravity of the charged offense; and (2) whether the minor could be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal found the juvenile court’s determination J.N. was not suitable for treatment in the juvenile court was not supported by substantial evidence and was, therefore, an abuse of discretion. View "J.N. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The juvenile court placed Juan on informal probation (Welfare and Institutions Code 654.2) for misdemeanor petty theft and throwing rocks at a vehicle. Weeks later, a second wardship petition alleged Juan committed second-degree robbery and assault by means of force likely to cause great bodily injury. Juan admitted committing the second-degree robbery and signed a waiver of rights. The dispositional report indicated Juan was chronically truant, received poor grades, had been suspended from school twice, and was disciplined for sexual harassment and vandalism. His co-participants were admitted gang members. Juan reported using alcohol and marijuana. The probation department recommended Juan be placed on formal wardship probation subject to conditions, including requiring Juan to “[s]ubmit to search of electronic devices at any time … without a warrant, probable cause or reasonable suspicion … This search should be confined to areas of the electronic devices including social media accounts, applications, websites where such evidence of criminality [or] probation violation may be found. . . . The minor must provide access/passwords.” The juvenile court adjudged Juan a ward of the court and placed him on indefinite supervised probation. Numerous conditions were imposed, including the electronic search condition, and prohibitions on possessing or consuming alcohol and illegal drugs, associating with gang members, and contacting co-participants. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the condition was unreasonable and unconstitutionally overbroad. View "In re Juan R." on Justia Law

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Aaron had an extremely abusive and traumatic childhood. In 2010 the San Francisco County District Attorney filed an original juvenile wardship petition under Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 alleging that Aaron, age 12, had committed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Aaron was placed on home supervision; the petition was ultimately dismissed. Five additional wardship petitions were filed during the next 26 months. In 2015, the juvenile court declared wardship and ordered out-of-home placement with conditions of probation. Due to the juvenile court’s decision to treat him as a ward under section 241.1, Aaron’s dependency jurisdiction was terminated one month shy of his eighteenth birthday. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Aaron’s arguments that that the county protocol under which his juvenile court status was assessed violates state law; that the juvenile court’s status determination was prejudicially flawed; that the juvenile court’s refusal to modify its dispositional order to reinstate dependency was error; and that the juvenile court’s underlying jurisdictional finding that he committed second-degree robbery was not supported by substantial evidence.The juvenile court considered all the evidence and determined that wardship was appropriate because it believed that Aaron would benefit from a “different approach.” The juvenile court’s decision as to whether an earlier juvenile court order should be modified rests within the court’s discretion. View "In re Aaron J." on Justia Law

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Aaron had an extremely abusive and traumatic childhood. In 2010 the San Francisco County District Attorney filed an original juvenile wardship petition under Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 alleging that Aaron, age 12, had committed robbery and assault with a deadly weapon. Aaron was placed on home supervision; the petition was ultimately dismissed. Five additional wardship petitions were filed during the next 26 months. In 2015, the juvenile court declared wardship and ordered out-of-home placement with conditions of probation. Due to the juvenile court’s decision to treat him as a ward under section 241.1, Aaron’s dependency jurisdiction was terminated one month shy of his eighteenth birthday. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Aaron’s arguments that that the county protocol under which his juvenile court status was assessed violates state law; that the juvenile court’s status determination was prejudicially flawed; that the juvenile court’s refusal to modify its dispositional order to reinstate dependency was error; and that the juvenile court’s underlying jurisdictional finding that he committed second-degree robbery was not supported by substantial evidence.The juvenile court considered all the evidence and determined that wardship was appropriate because it believed that Aaron would benefit from a “different approach.” The juvenile court’s decision as to whether an earlier juvenile court order should be modified rests within the court’s discretion. View "In re Aaron J." on Justia Law

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The Santa Clara County District Attorney filed a Welfare and Institutions Code section 602(a) petition, alleging that the minor committed felony first-degree burglary of an occupied residence, felony attempted theft or unauthorized use of a vehicle, and possession of burglar’s tools. The juvenile court continued the minor as a ward of the court and placed him on probation. On reconsideration after remand from the California Supreme Court, the court of appeal reversed. The court rejected an argument that there was insufficient evidence to sustain the allegation that the minor attempted to drive or take a vehicle without the owner’s consent (Veh. Code 10851(a)). The court remanded for a determination of whether that offense must be reduced to a misdemeanor pursuant to Proposition 47, the Safe Neighborhoods and Schools Act (Cal. Const., art. II, section 10(a)) The California Supreme Court had concluded that Proposition 47 did apply to Vehicle Code section 10851. View "In re J.R." on Justia Law