Monday, November 16, 2015

The Juvenile, Burglary and the Probation Conditions

This post examines a recent opinion from the California Court of Appeals – First District:  In re Patrick F., 2015 WL 7009056 (2015).  The court begins by explaining that “Patrick F. . . .  was declared a ward of the juvenile court after admitting an allegation of second degree burglary.”  In re Patrick F., supra.  The Court of Appeals goes on to explain that
[o]n the morning of June 11, 2014, 17–year–old [Patrick F.] burglarized the home of his next-door neighbor with the assistance of an adult cousin who was on parole. The neighbor had left earlier in the day, and when she returned home around noon the house had been ransacked and a gold ring and about $87 in rolled coins were missing. After he was apprehended, [Patrick F.] admitted to police that he had entered the neighbor's home and taken the property while his cousin acted as a lookout.

The district attorney filed a juvenile wardship petition alleging [Patrick F.] had committed a first degree residential burglary. (California Penal Code § 459) The petition was amended to allege second degree burglary and [Patrick F.] admitted the allegation. . . . During an interview with the probation officer who prepared a report for the dispositional hearing, [Patrick F.] said he had decided to steal from his neighbor because he wanted marijuana and he did not feel comfortable asking his parents for money he was going to spend on drugs. He acknowledged smoking marijuana up to three times a day and admitted he had not attended school regularly for a long time. He also acknowledged his marijuana use had influenced his decision not to attend school.
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The opinion goes on to explain that at the
dispositional hearing, the court adjudged [Patrick F.] a ward and placed him on probation, with [him] to reside with family members. The conditions of probation included a search term requiring [Patrick F.] to `[s]ubmit person and any vehicle, room or property [and] any electronics and passwords under your control to search by Probation Officer or peace office[r] with or without a search warrant at any time of day or night.’ Defense counsel objected to [Patrick F.’s] cell phone and electronics being included in the search term, arguing there was no nexus between such items and the burglary.

The court disagreed: `Well, it's also important to have as part of his supervision, given somebody who['s] been at that point where he was smoking, I think, three times a day. And I find from practice, that minors who are particularly using drugs or involved in offenses will very often post details about any offenses that they have or even photographs of them with drugs or paraphernalia or themselves smoking marijuana with friends. So I think it's a very important part of supervision, but your objection is noted for the record.’
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The Court of Appeals then begins its analysis of the parties’ respective arguments, noting, initially, that
[Patrick F.]  argues the electronics search condition imposed by the court is invalid under People v. Lent, 15 Cal.3d 481 (California Supreme Court 1975), because it has no relationship to the underlying offense, relates to conduct that is not illegal, and is not reasonably related to deterring future criminal activity. He additionally claims the condition is unconstitutionally overbroad and poses a risk of illegal eavesdropping under California's Invasion of Privacy Act (California Penal Code § 630 et seq.). These issues have been recently addressed in three published cases from different divisions of the Court of Appeal for the First District, each of which considered the legality of a virtually identical electronics search condition.

In In re Erica R., supra, California Court of Appeals - Division Two of this court held the condition was invalid under Lent, because it had no relationship to the commitment offense of misdemeanor possession of Ecstasy. Having reached this conclusion, the court found it unnecessary to address the defendant's constitutional challenge or her claim the probation condition would allow illegal eavesdropping.

In In re Malik J., (California Court of Appeals 2015) (Malik J.), Division Three found the condition to be unconstitutionally overbroad in a case where the defendant's juvenile probation had been violated based on his possession of marijuana and his commission of three robberies, one of which involved an iPhone. The court in Malik J. modified the search condition to eliminate the requirement that the defendant supply passwords to his social media sites, but allowed a search of the phone itself after it had been disabled from any Internet or cellular connection for the purpose of determining whether it had been stolen.

Most recently, in In re Ricardo P., 2015 WL 6387774 (California Court of Appeals 2015), Division One considered a challenge to an electronics search condition in a case where the defendant had been adjudicated a ward based on two counts of residential burglary and, like [Patrick F.] in this case, had admitted drug use. The Ricardo P. court concluded that although an electronics search condition was valid under Lent because it was reasonably related to monitoring the defendant's future criminality, the condition was overbroad in allowing the probation officer access to data that was not reasonably likely to reveal whether the defendant was using drugs. . . . It also rejected the defendant's claim that the condition posed a risk of electronic eavesdropping based on his lack of standing to raise the issue on behalf of the third parties who were arguably affected. . . .

Having had the benefit of our colleagues' intellectual legwork and thoughtful analyses, we are persuaded by the rationale of Ricardo P., the circumstances of which are the most similar to the case before us. We conclude the challenged electronics search condition, though reasonable under Lent, was overbroad as drafted, and order it modified accordingly. We reject [Patrick F.’s] contention that the condition must be stricken in its entirety due to the risk of unlawful eavesdropping on third parties.
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The Court of Appeals then took up the issue it deferred in the passage quoted above, i.e., the “reasonableness of the electronics search” under the California Supreme Court’s decision in People v. Lent, supra. In re Patrick F., supra.  It began by explaining that California’s
Welfare and Institutions Code section 730, subdivision (b) authorizes the juvenile court `to impose and require any and all reasonable conditions that it may determine fitting and proper to the end that justice may be done and the reformation and rehabilitation of the ward enhanced.’ (See In re Sheena K., 40 Cal.4th 875, 889 (California Supreme Court (2007)).  A condition of probation that would be legally impermissible for an adult criminal defendant is not necessarily unreasonable for a juvenile receiving guidance and supervision from the juvenile court. (In re Sheena K., supra; In re Walter P. (2009) 170 Cal.App.4th 100 (California Court of Appeals 2009) (In re Walter P.).)

`An appellate court will not disturb the juvenile court's broad discretion over probation conditions absent an abuse of discretion. . . . We grant this broad discretion so that the juvenile court may serve its rehabilitative function and further the legislative policies of the juvenile court system. . . . In fashioning the conditions of probation, the juvenile court should consider the minor's entire social history in addition to the circumstances of the crime. . . .’ In re Walter P., supra).
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The court went on to explain that under
People v. Lent, supra, `”[a] condition of probation will not be held invalid unless it `(1) has no relationship to the crime of which the offender was convicted, (2) relates to conduct which is not in itself criminal, and (3) requires or forbids conduct which is not reasonably related to future criminality. . . .’ This test is conjunctive—all three prongs must be satisfied before a reviewing court will invalidate a probation term. . . . As such, even if a condition of probation has no relationship to the crime of which a defendant was convicted and involves conduct that is not itself criminal, the condition is valid as long as the condition is reasonably related to preventing future criminality. . . .’ (People v. Olguin, 45 Cal.4th 375 (California Court of Appeals 2008). . . .
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The court then began applying the above holdings and rules to Patrick F.’s case:
In the case before us, an electronics search condition was reasonably related to future criminality even if it was not directly related to the underlying burglary. [Patrick F.] told the probation officer he used marijuana frequently and had committed the burglary to get money to buy marijuana. He also acknowledged he was not going to school on a regular basis, due in part to his marijuana use. Both drug use and truancy have been recognized by the Legislature as `precursor[s] of serious criminality.’ (In re P.A., (2012) 211 Cal. App. 4th 23, 36 (California Court of Appeals 2012) [citing legislative history of Welfare& Institutions Code, § 729.3, authorizing drug testing for delinquent minors who remain placed in parents' custody]; see In re Robert M.,163 Cal.App.3d 812 (California Court of Appeals 1985) [school attendance as probation condition upheld because reasonably related to future criminality].)

As recognized by the trial court, and as any modern parent would likely attest, access to a teen's electronic communications and social media can be a useful tool in tracking and monitoring drug transactions, drug usage and communications with other individuals associated with drugs. (See People v. Olguin, supra [probation condition `that enables a probation officer to supervise his charges effectively’ is reasonably related to future criminality]; People v. Ebertowski, 228 Cal.App.4th 1170 (California Court of Appeals 2014) [password condition was necessary for probation officer to implement search, association and gang conditions in case where defendant was convicted of threatening and resisting peace officer for the benefit of his gang].)
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The Court of Appeals explained that it “respectfully disagree[d]” with the decision in
In re Erica R., supra, in its conclusion that because there was nothing in the record to tie the use of electronics to the minor's commitment offense -- possession of Ecstasy -- there was no reason to believe an electronics search condition would serve a rehabilitative purpose. In re Erica R., supra. An electronics search condition such as the one in this case is `not about prohibiting particular conduct but [is] instead about enabling the effective supervision of probationers, [bringing them] within the ambit of People v. Olguin, supra.  

Nothing in People v. Olguin, nor in any other case of which we are aware, requires a connection between a probationer's past conduct and the locations that may be searched to uphold a search condition under People v. Lent, supra.  Because no such connection is required, conditions permitting searches of probationers' vehicles, for example, are permissible regardless of whether the record shows that the probationer has access to a vehicle or has engaged in illegal activity related to a vehicle. Given the ubiquity of electronic devices, particularly cell phones, we cannot say that an electronics search condition is unreasonable simply because the record does not show that the probationer necessarily has access to such devices or has used them to engage in illegal activity.’ (In re Ricardo P., supra.) Because of its relationship to future criminality, the electronics search condition is reasonable under Lent.
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The court also noted that Patrick F. argued that the
electronics search condition is unconstitutionally overbroad because it `forces him to surrender his privacy rights in regards to matters that are not reasonably related to deterring criminal behavior.’ We review this constitutional challenge de novo. (In re Shaun R., 188 Cal.App.4th 1129 (California Court of Appeals 2010)).

`”A probation condition that imposes limitations on a person's constitutional rights must closely tailor those limitations to the purpose of the condition to avoid being invalidated as unconstitutionally overbroad.”’ . . . Under this doctrine, ‘“a governmental purpose to control or prevent activities constitutionally subject to state regulation may not be achieved by means which sweep unnecessarily broadly and thereby invade the area of protected freedoms.’“ . . . People v. Ebertowski, 228 Cal.App.4th 1170 (California Court of Appeals 2014).
In re Patrick F., supra.  
It also pointed out that while the Juvenile Court’s
discretion to impose probation conditions is broad, it is not `boundless.’ (In re Frank V., 233 Cal.App.3d 1232 (California Court of Appeals 2007). The electronics search condition in this case does not limit the types of data (whether on the phone or accessible through the phone) that may be searched. [Patrick F.] has a privacy interest in the information contained on his electronic devices. This interest is trumped by the state's interest in effectively monitoring his probation, but only to the extent the information is reasonably likely to yield evidence of drug use, other criminal activity or noncompliance with probation conditions. The electronics search condition as currently written `permits review of all sorts of private information that is highly unlikely to shed any light on whether [appellant] is complying with the other conditions of his probation, drug-related or otherwise.’ (In re Ricardo P., 2015 WL 6387774 (California Court of Appeals 2015)).

Although we do not find a constitutional impediment to allowing officers to search data likely to reveal drug use or other criminal activities by a minor, many types of data available on a cell phone or electronic device would not fall into this category. Banking information, online games, musical libraries, medical records and electronic books, magazines and newspapers, for example, are unlikely to assist the probation officer in supervising appellant. Conversely, call logs, `text and voicemail messages, photographs, e-mails, and social-media accounts’ are reasonably likely to reveal whether he is using drugs or otherwise violating the terms of his probation. (In re Ricardo P., supra). We will therefore order the probation condition modified accordingly.
In re Patrick F., supra.  
The Court of Appeals therefore concluded its opinion by stating that the search condition
of the probation order, which currently reads, `Submit person and any vehicle, room or property [and] any electronics and passwords under your control to search by Probation Officer or peace office[r] with or without a search warrant at any time of the day or night’ is modified to read: ‘Submit your person and any vehicle, room or property under your control to a search by the probation officer or a peace officer, with or without a search warrant, at any time of the day or night. Submit all electronic devices under your control to a search of any text messages, voicemail messages, call logs, photographs, e-mail accounts and social media accounts, with or without a search warrant, at any time of the day or night, and provide the probation or peace officer with any passwords necessary to access the information specified.’

In re Patrick F., supra.  The court ended its opinion by ordering that “[a]s so modified, the judgment is affirmed.” In re Patrick F., supra.  

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