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Name: In re Alejandro R.
Case #: A144398
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 12/30/2015
Subsequent History: Review granted 3/9/2016: S232240

Probation condition requiring juvenile ward to submit to warrantless search of his electronic devices and his use of social media was unconstitutionally overbroad. The minor admitted an allegation in a juvenile wardship petition that he was an accessory to illegal drug sales (Health & Saf. Code, § 11360, subd. (a)). He was found to be a ward of the court, and placed on probation. Over defense objection, the juvenile court imposed a probation condition requiring the minor to submit to the warrantless search of his electronic devices and his use of social media. The minor appealed. Held: Probation term modified. A juvenile court has broad discretion to fashion probation terms for a minor offender, but its discretion is not boundless. A probation condition that impinges on a constitutional right must be narrowly tailored to the purpose of the condition. The applications and websites available via electronic devices contain substantial personal information regarding all aspects of a person’s life. Because the electronics search term permits review of private information that is unlikely to reveal whether or not the minor is complying with his probation terms, it is overbroad. The condition was modified to limit the probation officer’s search authority to media of communication reasonably likely to reveal whether the minor was boasting about drug use or otherwise involved with drugs, such as text messages, voicemail, photographs, email accounts, and social media accounts.

The electronics search term was valid under People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481. A juvenile court has authority to impose reasonable probation terms that will aid in rehabilitating the minor (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 730, subd. (b)). Under Lent, a probation condition is valid unless it (1) has no relationship to the crime of conviction, (2) relates to conduct which is not itself criminal, and (3) requires or forbids conduct which is not reasonably related to future criminality. Here, the electronics search condition was not directly related to the offense, and use of an electronics device is not illegal. The condition is nonetheless valid under the Lent criteria because it is reasonably related to future criminality as it enables the effective supervision of the minor’s compliance with probation terms. In an extensive discussion, the court disagreed with the contrary decision in In re J.B. (2015) 242 Cal.App.4th 749.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: