Articles Posted in Juvenile Law

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Defendant, sixteen-years-old at the time of the offense, was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in state prison with the possibility of parole after 50 years. After plaintiff was sentenced, the United States Supreme Court held in Miller v. Alabama that the Eighth Amendment to the federal Constitution prohibits a mandatory life without parole (LWOP) sentence for a juvenile offender who commits homicide. This court then held in People v. Caballero that the prohibition on life without parole sentences for all juvenile nonhomicide offenders established in Graham v. Florida applied to sentences that were the functional equivalent of a life without parole sentence, including Caballero‘s term of 110 years to life. In this case, the court held that Penal Code section 3051 and section 4801 moot defendant‘s constitutional challenge to his sentence by requiring that he receive a parole hearing during his 25th year of incarceration. In light of this holding, the court need not decide whether a life sentence with parole eligibility after 50 years of incarceration is the functional equivalent of an LWOP sentence and, if so, whether it is unconstitutional in defendant‘s case. Therefore, the court affirmed the sentence. The court remanded so that the trial court may determine whether defendant was afforded sufficient opportunity to make a record at sentencing of mitigating evidence tied to his youth. View "People v. Franklin" on Justia Law

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A grand jury returned an indictment against Defendant on charges of conspiracy to commit murder and active participation in a criminal street gang. The grand jury found reasonable cause to believe that Defendant came within the provisions of Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 707(d)(4). Defendant initially pleaded not guilty but later demurred to the indictment, arguing that section 707(d)(4) requires a determination that a juvenile qualifies for prosecution in adult court, and because he was a juvenile at the time of the alleged offenses, the grand jury had no legal authority to inquire into the charged offenses. The trial court agreed with Defendant, allowed him to withdraw his plea, and sustained his demurrer. The court of appeal reversed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that section 707(d) allows prosecutors the option of filing charges against certain juveniles accused of specified offenses in criminal court by grand jury indictment. View "People v. Arroyo" on Justia Law

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The District Attorney filed a petition to declare sixteen-year-old R.V. (“Minor”) a ward of the juvenile court. When the juvenile court determined there was substantial evidence raising a doubt regrading Minor’s competency to stand trial, the court suspended proceedings and appointed a forensic psychologist to evaluate Minor. The expert’s report concluded that Minor was not competent to stand trial. The court rejected the expert’s opinion and concluded that Minor was competent to stand trial. The Court of Appeal affirmed, concluding that the juvenile court’s reasons for declining to accept the expert’s opinion were supported by substantial evidence in the record. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) under Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 709, a minor is presumed competent and bears the burden of proving otherwise by a preponderance of the evidence; (2) a claim of insufficient evidence to support a juvenile court’s determination in a competency proceeding is reviewed deferentially under the substantial evidence test; and (3) the juvenile court under the circumstances could not reasonably have rejected the qualified expert’s opinion that Minor was not competent to proceed to trial. View "In re R.V." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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Luis M., a juvenile, admitted that he had committed felony vandalism. The offense involved nine acts of graffiti at six locations. The juvenile court ordered restitution in the amount of $3,881.88, which was a crime prevention officer’s estimation of the amount the City spent to abate Luis’s acts of graffiti in 2011. The court of appeal directed the juvenile court to vacate its restitution order and to hold a new restitution hearing. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the juvenile court’s award was not based on sufficient evidence that the amount of claimed loss was a result of Luis’s conduct. View "Luis M. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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Defendants in these cases were both seventeen-year-old offenders who were convicted of special circumstance murder and sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole under Cal. Penal Code 190.5(b). After Defendants were sentenced, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Miller v. Alabama. On review, the California Supreme Court held (1) section 190.5(b), properly construed, confers discretion upon a trial court to sentence a juvenile convicted of special circumstance murder to life without parole, with no presumption in favor of life without parole; (2) Miller requires a trial court, in exercising its sentencing discretion, to consider the distinctive attributes of youth before imposing life without parole on a juvenile offender; (3) section 190.5(b) does not violate the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution because it authorizes and requires consideration of the distinctive attributes of youth highlighted in Miller, once the statute is understood not to impose a presumption in favor of life without parole; and (4) because the trial courts in these cases sentenced Defendants without awareness of the full scope of their discretion conferred by section 190.5(b) and without the guidance set forth in Miller, the cases must be remanded for resentencing. View "People v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

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Alonzo J. was charged in a juvenile court delinquency petition with two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury. The juvenile court appointed attorney Jo Ann Harris to represent Alonzo on the charges. The prosecution offered a plea deal under which Alonzo could return home on probation if he admitted to committing one felony assault. Alonzo wanted to accept the offer, but Harris refused to consent. The juvenile court would not accept Alonzo’s admission of guilt without Harris’s consent, and, after a hearing, sustained all charges against Alonzo. The court then directed that Alonzo be placed in a foster or group home, a residential treatment center, or the home of a friend or relative. The court of appeal reversed, holding that although Harris’s consent was required for an admission of the charges, it was not required for a no contest plea, and the juvenile court should have allowed Alonzo to accept the plea offer by pleading no contest. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that, in a delinquency proceeding, the consent of the child’s attorney is required for a no contest plea, just as it is for an admission of the charging allegations. View "In re Alonzo J." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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A Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 602 wardship petition was filed alleging that D.B. committed a series of criminal offenses, including serious or violent offenses. A juvenile court found the allegations true, sustained the petition, and committed D.B. to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) for the maximum term. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that the plain language of Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 733(c) prohibits a DJF commitment when the minor’s most recent offense is not listed in Cal. Welf. & Inst. Code 707(b) or Cal. Penal Code 290.008(c). The People appealed, arguing that the court of appeal’s interpretation could produce absurd consequences when a juvenile’s violent crime spree happens to end with a nonviolent offense. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the plain language of section 733(c) mandates that a minor may not be committed to DJF unless the most recently committed offense that is alleged in any wardship petition, then admitted or found true, is listed in section 707(b) or section 290.008(c). View "In re D.B." on Justia Law

Posted in: Juvenile Law

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This case involved a ward on probation for an offense that made him eligible for commitment to the Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF). The ward subsequently committed a new offense that was not listed in Cal. Code Welf. & Inst. 733(c). Section 733(c) states that a ward cannot be committed to DJF unless "the most recent offense" alleged in any petition is one of several enumerated violent offenses. If the prosecution files a notice of probation violation under section 777, the court may revoke the ward's probation and commit the ward to DJF. However, if the prosecution files a new section 602 petition, section 733(c) will prohibit the court from ordering a DJF commitment if the allegation is found true. At issue in this case was whether, under these circumstances, the juvenile court may use its discretion under section 782, which allows the juvenile court to dismiss any wardship petition if the interests of justice, to dismiss the second petition so the matter can be treated as a probation violation, allowing the ward to be committed to DJF. The Supreme Court concluded (1) the court has that discretion; and (2) the juvenile court here had authority to dismiss the 602 petition. View "In re Greg F." on Justia Law

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The Minor in this case was the subject of several delinquency petitions. Minor was eventually placed in foster care. Minor appealed, arguing the dispositional order placing him in foster care had to be reversed because the juvenile court had failed to comply with the notice requirements of the Indian Child Welfare Act (INCA). The court of appeals affirmed, holding notice was not required because federal law specifically excludes delinquency cases from ICWA, and any interpretation of California law that would expand ICWA's application to delinquencies would be invalid under federal preemption principles. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) California law requires the court to inquire about a child's Indian status at the outset of all juvenile proceedings, but ICWA's additional procedures are not required in most delinquency cases; (2) a delinquency court must ensure that notice is given and other ICWA procedures are complied with only under certain circumstances; and (3) assuming Minor was an Indian child, the juvenile court did not err in failing to give notice under ICWA in this case. View "People v. W.B." on Justia Law

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A high school security officer arrested minor M.M. for vandalism. The county district attorney's office filed an amended petition alleging that the minor had resisted or delayed a public officer in violation of Cal. Penal Code 148(a)(1) and had committed misdemeanor vandalism. The juvenile court found a school security officer was a public officer within the meaning of section 148(a)(1), and found true the allegations that the minor had resisted or delayed a public officer and of misdemeanor vandalism. The court of appeal reversed, concluding that a school security officer is not a public officer within the meaning of section 148(a)(1). The Supreme Court reversed, holding that school security officers, like sworn peace officers, fall within the protection of section 148(a)(1). Remanded. View "In re M.M." on Justia Law