Skip to content
Name: In re Malik J.
Case #: A143355
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 09/29/2015

Minor’s probation condition that allowed warrantless searches of electronic devices that were not in the minor’s control and required minor to provide passwords to social media websites was invalid. Malik was adjudged a ward after admitting a robbery in 2012. While on probation, he committed three more robberies (one involving an iPhone) and was caught in possession of eight baggies of marijuana. Malik admitted he violated his probation and the court reinstated probation. Over a defense objection, the court imposed a probation condition requiring that Malik and his family provide the probation officer with their passwords and submit to searches of their electronic devices and social media accounts. Malik appealed, challenging the validity of the search condition. Held: Search condition modified. Although the juvenile court has broad discretion to formulate probation conditions, a probation condition is invalid if it is vague or overbroad. Here, The Court of Appeal analyzed the probation search condition in light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent discussion of the unique privacy concerns related to searching modern cell phones (see Riley v. California (2014) 573 U.S. ___) and concluded it was overbroad. While officers must be able to determine ownership of electronic devices in a probationer’s custody and search them if they belong to the probationer, officers must also “show due regard for information that may be beyond a probationer’s custody or control or implicate the privacy rights of the probationer or third parties.” When searching an electronic device that is found in a probationer’s custody, officers should confine their search to information that is stored locally on the device that can be accessed without specialized equipment or a cellular/Internet connection. The requirement that Malik turn over passwords to social media sites must also be stricken.

To the extent the probation electronics search condition applied to minor’s family, it was unconstitutional. The People did not challenge Malik’s argument that the probation electronics search condition was unconstitutional to the extent it applied to individuals other than Malik. This was appropriate because “the probation condition is indisputably unconstitutional so far as it could be read to require individuals other than Malik to submit to warrantless searches of their electronic devices or turn over their passwords to police on demand.” Any reference to Malik’s family must be stricken.