Articles Posted in Juvenile 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

Posted in: Juvenile 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

Posted in: Juvenile 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

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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

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The defendant was charged in adult criminal court with sex crimes allegedly committed in 2014 and 2015 when he was 14 and 15 years old. The law then in effect permitted the prosecutor to charge the case directly in adult court. After the charges were filed, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the “Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016,” prohibiting prosecutors from charging juveniles directly in adult court. Such actions must commence in juvenile court. If the prosecution wishes to try the juvenile as an adult, the juvenile court must conduct a “transfer hearing.” Only if the juvenile court transfers the matter to adult court can the juvenile be tried and sentenced as an adult (Welf. & Inst. Code, 707(a)). The Supreme Court of California held that the provision applies retroactively to all juveniles charged directly in adult court whose judgment was not final at the time it was enacted. The possibility of being treated as a juvenile in juvenile court—where rehabilitation is the goal—rather than being tried and sentenced as an adult can result in dramatically different and more lenient treatment, so Proposition 57 reduces the possible punishment for a class of persons, namely juveniles. Nothing in Proposition 57’s text or ballot materials rebuts this inference. View "People v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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The first clause of Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 300(b)(1) authorizes a juvenile court to exercise dependency jurisdiction over a child without a finding that a parent is at fault or blameworthy for her failure or inability to supervise or protect her child. The court of appeal also concluded that section 300(b)(1)’s first clause does not require such a finding. In this case, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services filed a petition to declare then seventeen-year-old R.T. a dependent of the juvenile court on the ground that she faced a substantial risk of serious physical harm or illness as a result of Mother’s failure or inability adequately to supervise or protect her. The juvenile court asserted jurisdiction over R.T. The court of appeal affirmed the jurisdictional and dispositional orders of the juvenile court. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that when a child’s behavior places her at substantial risk of serious physical harm and a parent is unable to protect or supervise that child, the juvenile court’s assertion of jurisdiction is authorized under section 300(b)(1). View "In re R.T." on Justia Law

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The Presiding Judge of the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Juvenile Division, issued a protocol addressing the process by which minors are found incompetent and later found to have attained competency. The Supreme Court of California held that although trial courts are not barred from adopting such protocols as guidance or as local rules, the Court of Appeal was correct that the protocol does not presumptively or otherwise define due process. The court declined to decide whether the length of detention in this case violated due process and instead held that any violation was not prejudicial in light of the juvenile court's finding of malingering. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "In re Albert C." on Justia Law