Justia Juvenile Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Supreme Court of California
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The Supreme Court held that the juvenile court may exercise jurisdiction in a formal wardship proceeding on the basis of the minor having four or more truancies within one school year under Cal. Welf & Inst. Code 601(b) if a fourth truancy report has been issued to the appropriate school official, even if the minor has not been previously referred to a school attendance review board (SARB) or a similar truancy mediation program. The district court filed a wardship petition against A.N., a high school student, in the juvenile court, alleging that A.N. was a habitual truant and that she was within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court. After a hearing, the juvenile court sustained the wardship petition. A.N. appealed, arguing that the juvenile court lacked jurisdiction because, at the time the petition was filed, she had not yet appeared before a SARB and because she and her parents had not received a fourth truancy report. The court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that because A.N.’s school had sent at least four truancy reports to the superintendent of the school district before the wardship petition was filed, the juvenile court possessed jurisdiction over A.N. View "In re A.N." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the appellate court dismissing a minor's appeal challenging the juvenile court's neglect of its mandatory duty under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 702 to declare a wobbler offense to be a misdemeanor or a felony, holding that the minor may not bring such a challenge in an appeal from a later dispositional order after the time to appeal the original disposition expired. Two wardship petitions were filed against G.C. alleging that G.C. committed three wobbler offenses. G.C. admitted all three allegations. The court, however, did not declare on the record whether the offenses were felonies or misdemeanors. Thereafter, G.C. was adjudged a ward and placed on probation. G.C. did not appeal the disposition. After G.C. violated the terms of her probation the juvenile court maintained G.C. in her mother's custody under the supervision of the probation department with various conditions. G.C. appealed, arguing that the court failed expressly to declare whether the offenses were misdemeanors or felonies. The appellate court determined that the issue was not timely raised. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that although section 702 is mandatory, noncompliance did not make the original dispositional order an unauthorized sentence that could be corrected at any time. View "In re G.C." on Justia Law

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In this appeal concerning a condition of probation requiring Ricardo P. to submit to warrantless searches of his electronics devices the Supreme Court held that the electronics search condition was not reasonably related to future criminality and was therefore invalid under People v. Lent, 15 Cal.3d 481 (1975). In Lent, the Supreme Court held that "a condition of probation which requires or forbids conduct which is not itself criminal is valid if that conduct is reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted or to future criminality." Ricardo, a juvenile, was placed on probation after admitting two counts of felony burglary. As a condition of his probation, the juvenile court imposed the electronics search. Although there was no indication Defendant used an electronic device in connection with the burglaries, the court imposed the condition in order to monitor Ricardo's compliance with separate conditions. The court of appeals concluded that the condition was unconstitutionally overbroad and should be narrowed but held that the condition was permissible under Lent because it served to prevent future criminality. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding that the electronics search condition was not reasonably related to future criminality. View "In re Ricardo P." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the court of appeal granting Anthony Cook's petition for writ of habeas corpus and remanded the matter to the court of appeal with directions to deny the petition, holding that resort to a petition for writ of habeas corpus was unnecessary in this case, at least in the first instance. Cook was convicted of two counts of first degree murder and one count of premeditated attempted murder. Cook, who was seventeen years old when he committed the murders, was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole for the attempted murder and five consecutive terms of twenty-five years to life for the murders and enhancements. Cook later filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus arguing that his sentence was cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment and Miller v. Alabama, 567 U.S. 460 (2012). The court of appeal granted the writ, holding that, in light of People v. Franklin, 63 Cal.4th 261 (2016), Cook was entitled to make a record before the superior court of mitigating evidence tied to his youth. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that Cal. Penal Code 1203.01 provides an adequate remedy at law to preserve evidence of youth-related factors. View "In re Cook" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal upholding the juvenile court's finding that H.W. possessed an "other instrument or tool with intent feloniously to break or enter" within the meaning of Cal. Penal Code 466, holding that the pair of pliers that H.W. was in possession of when he was apprehended were not an "other instrument or tool" within the meaning of section 466. H.W., a minor, entered a Sears department store with the intent to steal a pair of jeans. When H.W. was apprehended and searched, he had in possession the jeans and a pair of pliers approximately ten inches in length, with a half-inch blade. The juvenile court sustained the burglary tool possession allegation brought against H.W. The Court of Appeal upheld the juvenile court's determination. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the record did not support the conclusion that H.W. intended to use the pliers to do anything other than remove the anti-theft tag from the jeans; and (2) therefore, there was insufficient evidence to support the section 466 allegation. View "In re H.W." on Justia Law

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In this challenge brought by J.G., a juvenile, to a restitution order the Supreme Court remanded the matter for a new hearing regarding J.G.’s ability to pay restitution, holding that the juvenile court did not violate federal law by considering J.G’s receipt of Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) benefits for purposes of assessing J.G.’s ability to pay restitution but that a new ability to pay hearing was required that includes consideration of J.G.’s future earning capacity, his current financial circumstances, and the total amount of restitution to be ordered. J.G. was charged by petition with trespassing and vandalism. The juvenile court granted deferred entry of judgment on condition that J.G. pay restitution in the total amount of $36,381 at the rate of $25 per month. The court later dismissed the petition and ordered that the restitution award may be enforced as a civil judgment. J.G. challenged the restitution order on appeal. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court remanded the matter, holding that, based on the People’s concession that the ability to pay determination would be “improper” if the juvenile court “was contemplating the social security money as the source of the restitution payments,” remand was necessary for a new ability to pay hearing. View "In re J.G." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the judgment of the Court of Appeal rejecting Defendant’s argument that insufficient evidence supported the juvenile court’s finding that Defendant’s use of a knife with a dull tip and slightly erred edge, referred to as a “butter knife,” violated Cal. Penal Code 245(a)(1), holding that the evidence was insufficient to sustain a finding that the knife at issue was used as a “deadly weapon” for purposes of the statute. Section 245(a)(1) prohibits assaulting another person with a deadly weapon or instrument other than a firearm. On appeal, defendant argued that the juvenile court erred in finding that she violated the statute because she had not used the butter knife at issue in a manner that was “capable of producing and likely to produce death or great bodily injury.” See People v. Aguilar, 16 Cal.4th 1023, 1029 (1997). The Court of Appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) consistent with settled principles, for an object to qualify as a deadly weapon based on how it was used, the defendant must have used the object in a manner both “capable of producing” and “likely to produce” each or great bodily injury; and (2) even if Defendant’s use of the butter knife were capable of causing great bodily injury, there was no substantial evidence that it was likely to do so. View "In re B.M." on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the passage of Proposition 47, which reclassified various drug and property offenses from felonies to misdemeanors, did not entitle Appellants, juveniles who were declared wards of the court based on conduct that was felonious when committed but was now reclassified from felonies to misdemeanors, to have their DNA samples and profiles removed from the databank maintained by the California Department of Justice (Department). The Department maintains a databank of DNA samples and genetic profiles collected from certain juvenile offenders who have been declared wards of the court. Juveniles declared wards based on felony conduct must submit samples but need not do so for most misdemeanor offenses. After the passage of Proposition 47, Appellants argued that because their acts are now misdemeanors, they were entitled to have their DNA samples and profiles expunged from the databank through the procedure established by the Legislature. The motions for expungement were denied. The Court of Appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Proposition 47 did not authorize the relief sought by Appellants, nor did the statutory scheme allowing retention of Appellants’ samples in the databank deprive them of equal protection under the state and federal Constitutions. View "In re C.B." on Justia Law

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The Alameda County Social Services Agency filed a petition (Welf. & Inst. Code 300) to have I.C., age three, and her brother, age five, declared dependents of the court, alleging that I.C. had been sexually abused by Father. In a juvenile dependency proceeding, a child’s out-of-court reports of parental abuse are admissible in evidence regardless of whether the child is competent to testify in court (section 355.) but the court may not base its findings solely on the hearsay statements of a child who may not testify because she is too young to separate truth from falsehood unless the child’s statements bear “special indicia of reliability.” The juvenile court found I.C.’s statements to be unclear, confusing, not credible, and unreliable in significant respects but concluded that the indicia of reliability outweighed the indicia of unreliability. The court adjudged her a dependent of the court and ordered her father removed from the home. The Supreme Court of California reversed. The court failed to take adequate account of the confounding role of I.C.’s prior molestation and her subsequent encounter with the prior molester. The timing and content of I.C.’s allegations concerning Father strongly suggested a relationship to her earlier molestation. The court noted that some of I.C.’s allegations were actually false. View "In re I.C." on Justia Law

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The sentences imposed on Defendants, two juvenile nohomicide offenders, violated the Eighth Amendment as interpreted in People v. Caballero, 55 Cal.4th 262, 268 (2012) and Graham v. Florida, 460 U.S. 48 (2010). Defendants, Leonel Contreras and William Rodriguez, were convicted in a joint trial of kidnapping and sexual offenses that they committed when they were sixteen years old. Contreras was sentenced to a term of fifty-eight years to life, and Rodriguez was sentenced to a term of fifty years to life. The Court of Appeal affirmed Defendants’ convictions but reversed their sentences and remanded for resentencing, holding that Defendants’ sentences fell short of giving them a realistic chance for release, as contemplated by Graham. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants’ sentences violated the Eighth Amendment under the standards articulated in Graham. The court directed the sentencing court, upon resentencing, any mitigating circumstances of Defendants’ lives and crimes and the impact of any new legislation and regulations on appropriate sentencing. View "People v. Contreras" on Justia Law