Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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The Santa Clara County District Attorney filed juvenile wardship petitions (Welf. & Inst. Code 602(a)) alleging that R.E., born in June 2000 and a ward of the juvenile court since 2016, committed two first-degree burglaries and moved to transfer R.E. to adult criminal court. (section 707(a)) In June 2017, R.E. had been ordered to a ranch program following his involvement in carjacking, vehicle theft, and robbery. He completed the program's custodial portion but, after testing positive for drugs and missing school, was returned to the ranch. R.E. was “failed” from the program. R.E.’s supervising probation counselor testified that although he had recommended that R.E. return to the ranch, his recommendation had changed because there would not be enough time for R.E. to complete all of the programs before he turned 19; the ranch and aftercare program could not accommodate 19-year-olds. The juvenile court granted the motion to transfer, noting that, despite believing that R.E. was amenable to treatment as a juvenile, it “need[ed] the ability to use custody as an incentive” and “confinement [in county jail] would not be an available disposition under juvenile law if [he] were found to have violated probation after turning 19.” The court of appeal vacated the transfer order. The juvenile court erred in concluding it would not have the authority to order R.E. into custody if he violated probation after turning 19. View "R.E. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment entered after the juvenile court sustained a juvenile delinquency petition for assault with force likely to produce great bodily injury and attempted second degree robbery. The court held that the juvenile defendant's liability as an aider and abettor of the assault was based on his joint participation in an extremely dangerous situation that he helped create. In this case, defendant entered into the convenient store with his codefendant and escaped together; the jury could reasonably infer that they were jointly engaged in a robbery; and the natural and probable consequences of which included resistance by any of the defendants to avoid capture. The court rejected defendant's non-developed brain theory contention, and held that this contention confused criminal capacity with aider and abettor liability which focuses on whether a criminal act was a natural and probable consequence of another criminal act. View "People v. R.C." on Justia Law

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At 11:20 p.m., Gosuwin, carrying a pursed and holding an iPhone, saw two “young black men” wearing hoodies coming around the corner. One pushed her to the ground. The assailants pulled her bag and phone away, then continued on Market Street toward the Embarcadero. Gosuwin went to a nearby building, where a security guard called the police. Gosuwin did not see any weapons on her assailants. An officer used the “Find My iPhone app.” Gosuwin’s phone was “pinging” on the Embarcadero. Officer found Gosuwin’s purse there. At 11:29 p.m., officers received a dispatch call and went to the area to look for the “robbery suspects.” They noticed Jeremiah and J.A., both juveniles. One was wearing a hoodie. During the ensuing stop, an officer instructed Jeremiah to face a wall with his legs spread and his arms above his head. He did so. There was nothing about Jeremiah’s appearance, behavior, or actions to indicate that Jeremiah was armed and dangerous. A pat-down search revealed two phones in Jeremiah’s pocket. One phone’s background picture and password matched Gosuwin’s phone. The juvenile court denied a motion to suppress and ordered Jeremiah transferred to Alameda County where a previous wardship petition alleging second-degree robbery was pending. The court of appeal reversed the jurisdiction and disposition orders. The officer who conducted the pat-down did not present specific and articulable facts to support a reasonable suspicion that Jeremiah was armed and dangerous. The court declined to recognize a rule that would validate essentially any “pat-search” of a suspected robber who is lawfully detained following a report of a fresh robbery. View "In re Jeremiah S." on Justia Law

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Defendant-appellant O.C., appealed an order denying her petition to seal her juvenile court records and related records in the custody of law enforcement and other agencies. She claimed the court was required to seal her records under Welfare & Institutions Code section 786 because she satisfactorily completed her juvenile court probation in April 2011. The Court of Appeal affirmed denial. O.C. was not qualified to seal her records under section 781 because: (1) she was convicted of six felonies in May 2018, after the juvenile court’s jurisdiction over her terminated in April 2011; and (2) in denying O.C.’s sealing petition, the court found that O.C. had not obtained rehabilitation since April 2011, based on the facts underlying her six felony convictions. View "In re O.C." on Justia Law

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Michael Damion Jude Medrano was convicted by jury on one count of first-degree murder, two counts of second degree robbery, and one count of assault with force likely to produce great bodily harm. Medrano was 19 years old when he committed the offenses. He was sentenced to 25 years to life, plus seven. Medrano was sentenced in December 2017, one and one-half years after the California Supreme Court decided California v. Franklin, 63 Cal.4th 261 (2016), which held that when a juvenile offender receives an indeterminate life sentence, the offender must be “given adequate opportunity at sentencing to make a record of mitigating evidence tied to his youth.” The Court remanded the case to the trial court to determine whether the juvenile offender had been given an adequate opportunity to make such a record. Medrano asked the Court of Appeal to give him the same relief that was granted in Franklin. But because Medrano was sentenced one and one-half years after Franklin, and because nothing in the record indicated Medrano lacked an adequate opportunity at sentencing to make a record of mitigating youth-related evidence, the Court found no basis to order the same relief that the Supreme Court granted in Franklin. It noted, however, that the Supreme Court recently held that a juvenile offender whose conviction and sentence were final could file a motion under Penal Code section 1203.01 for the purpose of making a record of mitigating youth-related evidence. View "California v. Medrano" on Justia Law

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This case centered on the validity of a a changed law that raised the minimum age at which a juvenile could be tried in criminal court. The new law amended a provision of the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act” (Proposition 57), which the voters approved in 2016 with the express goals of reducing prison spending, emphasizing rehabilitation for youth offenders, and limiting prosecutorial authority over the decision to try a minor as an adult. To advance these goals, Proposition 57 eliminated prosecutors’ ability to directly file charges against minors ages 14 to 17 in criminal court, requiring them instead to seek the juvenile court’s permission by way of a transfer hearing. In 2018, the Legislature enacted the law at issue here, Senate Bill Number 1391 (2017-2018 Reg. Sess., "SB 1391"), which eliminated prosecutors’ ability to seek transfer hearings for 14 and 15 year olds, effectively raising the minimum age a child can be tried as an adult from 14 to 16. The change affected B.M.’s prosecution for murder. SB 1391 became effective after the Riverside County District Attorney had filed a wardship petition against the then 15-year-old, and had moved to transfer her to criminal court. While the transfer motion was pending, the juvenile court (respondent Riverside County Superior Court) ruled the new law was invalid because it did not further what it identified as Proposition 57’s goal of giving judges the authority to transfer 14 to 17 year olds to criminal court. B.M. sought mandamus relief, arguing the trial court misinterpreted Proposition 57's purpose in declaring SB 1391 invalid. The Court of Appeal agreed, finding SB 1391 furthered each of Proposition 57’s express purposes, including the one concerned with limiting prosecutorial discretion. The Court therefore granted B.M.’s petition for a writ of mandate and directed the juvenile court to vacate its order declaring SB 1391 invalid. View "B.M. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Senate Bill No. 1391 is unconstitutional insofar as it precludes the possibility of adult prosecution of an alleged 15-year-old murderer. In this case, the district attorney sought to try petitioner as an adult after he killed two people when he was fifteen years old. Proposition 57, an initiative passed by the voters allows the district attorney, with the approval of the superior court, to try him as an adult. However, SB 1391 prohibited asking the superior court for such permission. The Court of Appeal denied the petition for extraordinary relief, holding that the superior court correctly ruled that the initiative authorizes the possibility of treating a 15-year-old alleged murderer as an adult and that S.B. 1391 precludes this possibility. The court explained that this attempt to "overrule" Proposition 57 violates the well settled rule that the Legislature may not enact a law that thwarts the initiative process without the consent of the people. View "O.G. v. Superior Court of Ventura County" on Justia Law

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At the time of the crimes, petitioner D’Arsey Bolton was 16. He accosted two young girls, aged 10 and 12, while they were at school, forcing each at knifepoint into a bathroom, where he threatened them and raped them. Petitioner was convicted in Contra Costa County of five counts of rape, two counts of unlawful penetration with a foreign object, two counts of forcible lewd and lascivious conduct on a child, two counts of false imprisonment, one count of attempted rape, and one count of assault with a deadly weapon, along with multiple enhancements for being armed with and using a knife and pellet pistol. He was sentenced to 92 years in state prison, which was modified to 91 years on appeal. Over a decade later (when petitioner was 30), a correctional officer discovered a metal object wrapped in cloth in petitioner’s cell. Petitioner claimed he needed the weapon for protection while in jail. He would later be conviction of possessing a sharp instrument in prison. He admitted 11 strike allegations and was sentenced to 25 years to life under the three strikes law. In this habeas proceeding, petitioner claimed his sentence violated the cruel and unusual punishment prohibition of the Eighth Amendment and asked the Court of Appeal to order Superior Court to resentence him on all of his convictions consistent with the possibility of release in his lifetime, or to find he was not ineligible for youth offender parole. The Court of Appeal found resentencing on the juvenile offenses was necessary, but petitioner’s adult sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment. The Court therefore vacated the 91-year term for the crimes committed as a juvenile, and remanded for resentencing. View "In re Bolton" on Justia Law

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During his high school senior year, Frank had an encounter with the school’s new resource officer, Redwood City Officer Stahler. Frank’s father filed a complaint alleging Stahler had physically handled Frank in an unlawful manner. An investigation followed but Stahler continued at the school. Months later, Frank and three others left a class without permission. Frank was found in the library. An aide directed him to the administrative vice principal’ office, where Stahler was located. Frank called his father on his cell phone and told the aide he wanted to go to the principal’s office instead but generally cooperated with the aide. Stahler arrived and reprimanded Frank about using the phone in violation of school rules. There was physical contact; the two dispute the nature of the confrontation. Eventually, Stahler grabbed his wrist, forced Frank to the ground, handcuffed him and arrested him. The juvenile court sustained charges of misdemeanor battery and resisting a peace officer. The court of appeal reversed. Stahler did not indicate that Frank acted willfully or unlawfully to touch him. There is no substantial evidence that Frank’s touching Stahler, even if willful, was “harmful or offensive,” another required element of battery. There is no indication Stahler was enforcing any disciplinary rules during the encounter. Given Stahler’s failure to give Frank any clear or direct orders, there was insufficient evidence that Frank willfully resisted Stahler. View "People v. Francis A." on Justia Law

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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