Skip to content
Name: In re M.F.
Case #: D068971
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 01/12/2017

Minor’s probation condition was unconstitutionally overbroad where it forbid use of all electronic devices, including a basic phone. M.F., a minor, was detained after he gave a teacher a letter threatening gun violence against the teacher. Police found gun paraphernalia and ammunition in M.F.’s bedroom as well as plans for future attacks. M.F. admitted allegations that he made criminal threats (Pen. Code, § 422), threatened a public employee (Pen. Code, § 71), and possessed ammunition (Pen. Code, § 29650). M.F. was declared a ward of the court and the juvenile court imposed a probation condition prohibiting M.F. from knowingly possessing “an electronic device, such as a computer, electronic notepad, paging device, or cell phone, except in the course of lawful employment or for a school-authorized project.” On appeal, M.F. challenged the condition as overbroad. Held: Reversed. A probation condition is unconstitutionally overbroad if it imposes limitations on the probationer’s constitutional rights and is not narrowly tailored and reasonably related to the compelling state interest in reformation and rehabilitation. (In re Sheena K. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 875, 890.) Here, the condition limits M.F.’s constitutional right to freedom of speech by interfering with his ability to communicate through the internet or via cell phone, and must therefore be narrowly tailored. Because there was evidence that M.F. routinely used the Internet to obtain information about guns, the condition is appropriately tailored to the extent it restricts M.F. from unsupervised internet access. However, the condition is overbroad because it also prohibits M.F. from possessing devices used only for oral communication, such as a basic cell phone. As there was no evidence that M.F. had delivered threats or contacted others about guns through oral communication, the prohibition on devices limited to oral communication is not narrowly tailored or reasonably related to M.F.’s offenses or rehabilitation. The court remanded to the juvenile court with directions to modify the probation condition, specifically noting that M.F. should be permitted to use and possess a phone without internet or text messaging capability.

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