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Name: In re P.O.
Case #: A145284
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 04/05/2016

Minor’s electronics search condition is valid under People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481, because it allows probation officer to ensure he is complying with other probation conditions. P.O. went to school high on hash oil and had 11 Xanax tablets in his pockets. He admitted an allegation that he was intoxicated in public and the juvenile court declared him a ward. He was placed on probation with various conditions, including that he submit his person, property, or electronics, including passwords, to warrantless search. On appeal, he challenged the electronics search condition under People v. Lent. Held: Affirmed as modified. A juvenile court’s discretion to impose probation conditions is broad, but has limits. Under Lent, a condition is invalid if it (1) has no relationship to the crime of which the offender was convicted, (2) related to conduct which is not in itself criminal, and (3) requires or forbids conduct which is not reasonably related to future criminality. Initially, the Court of Appeal faulted P.O. for not specifying the basis of his objection to the electronics search condition, and concluded that, even if the issue was preserved, it failed on the merits because the condition here does not satisfy the third factor. A probation condition is reasonably related to future criminality if it enables probation officers to ensure the probationer is complying with other probation conditions. (People v. Olguin (2008) 45 Cal.4th 375, 380-381.) P.O.’s electronics search condition enables effective supervision of his compliance with other probation conditions because it allows peace officers to review his electronic activity for indications that he has drugs or is otherwise engaged in activity in violation of his probation. Thus, the condition is not unreasonable under Lent. The Court disagreed with In re Mark C. (2016) 244 Cal.App.4th 520, 534, which reached a contrary conclusion based on similar facts.

Electronics search condition is unconstitutionally overbroad because it was not narrowly tailored to further rehabilitation. P.O. also argued that the electronics search condition was unconstitutionally overbroad. The Court of Appeal agreed. When a probation condition imposes limitations on a person’s constitutional rights, the limitations must be closely tailored to the purpose of the condition—the probationer’s reformation and rehabilitation. The electronics search condition here imposes limitations on P.O.’s right to privacy and it is not narrowly tailored to furthering P.O.’s rehabilitation. Although the juvenile court stated the condition’s purpose was to allow monitoring of P.O.’s involvement with drugs, the condition does not limit the types of data that may be searched in light of this purpose. The Court of Appeal distinguished In re A.S. (2016) 245 Cal.App.4th 758, 761-762, which rejected an overbreadth challenge based on the unique facts of the case, and modified the condition to read as follows: “Submit all electronic devices under your control to a search of any medium of communication reasonably likely to reveal whether you are boasting about your drug use or otherwise involved with drugs . . . and provide the probation or peace officer with any passwords necessary to access the information specified. Such media of communication include text messages, voicemail messages, photographs, e-mail accounts, and social media accounts.”

Court of Appeal exercised its discretion to reach merits of forfeited overbreadth challenge to a probation condition. P.O. forfeited his ability to assert on appeal that the electronics search condition was overbroad because his trial counsel failed to object on that ground below. The Court of Appeal rejected P.O.’s argument that the issue presented a “pure question of law” and could therefore be reviewed absent an objection. However, the Court of Appeal exercised its discretion to reach the issue, citing People v. Williams (1998) 17 Cal.4th 148, 161-162, fn. 6, which holds that appellate courts retain discretion to reach the merits of otherwise forfeited issues.

Probation conditions requiring probationer to “attend classes or job on time and regularly; be of good behavior and perform well” and to “be of good citizenship and good conduct” were unconstitutionally vague. The trial court imposed “good-behavior” conditions in this case. P.O. argued they were too imprecise and subjective to provide sufficient notice of the conduct they require and for that reason unconstitutionally vague. Although he failed to object on that ground below, no objection was required to assert a facial vagueness challenge. (In re Sheena K. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 875, 888-889.) The Court of Appeal agreed with P.O. (accepting the Attorney General’s concession) that the conditions were too imprecise to give P.O. notice of the conduct expected of him. “Reasonable minds can differ about what it means to ‘be of good behavior and perform well’ at school or work and to ‘be of good citizenship and good conduct,’ and the conditions are therefore vague.” The Court of Appeal struck the conditions but noted it was “leaving the [juvenile] court free to impose, if it wishes, substitute conditions that are sufficiently clear to comply with constitutional requirements.”

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