Articles Posted in Juvenile 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

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Neither People v. Arbuckle, 587 P.2d 220 (Cal. 1978), nor its progeny support the view that a defendant’s ability to enforce the guarantee that the judge who accepts a plea bargain will impose the sentence (the same-judge guarantee) is dependent on a defendant first making a factual showing that she or he objectively intended the judge taking the plea would also pronounce sentence. K.R., a juvenile, admitted two probation violations. During continued disposition hearings, K.R. filed a petition for writ of mandate requesting that the same-judge guarantee be enforced. K.R.’s claim was denied under Arbuckle, the judge finding that K.R. did not have a reasonable expectation that the judge who accepted his plea would also impose the disposition. The court of appeal agreed and denied K.R.’s petition for writ of mandate. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) the plain and original understanding of Arbuckle is that in every plea in both adult and juvenile court, an implied term is that the judge who accepts the plea will be the judge who pronounces sentence; and (2) should the People wish to allow a different judge to preside at sentencing, or, in juvenile cases, disposition, they should seek to obtain a waiver from the pleading defendant or juvenile. View "K.R. v. Superior Court of Sacramento County" on Justia 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