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Name: In re Patrick F.
Case #: A143586
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 5
Opinion Date: 11/12/2015

Probation condition requiring juvenile offender to provide passwords and submit any electronic devices under his control to search was constitutionally overbroad. The minor admitted an allegation in a wardship petition that he committed second degree burglary and was placed on probation. Over the minor’s objection, the juvenile court imposed a probation search condition requiring the minor to submit “any electronics and passwords under [his] control” to a search. 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 which impinges on a constitutional right must be narrowly tailored to the purpose of the condition. Relying on Riley v. California (2014) 134 S.Ct. 2473, which held that officers must generally obtain a warrant before searching a cell phone, the minor claimed the search term invaded his privacy rights. However, Riley concerned the privacy interests of an adult suspect, not a juvenile probationer, whose constitutional rights are significantly more curtailed. While a minor has a privacy interest in the information contained in his electronic devices, a search term may impinge on the minor’s privacy rights to the extent the information is likely to reveal evidence of criminal activity or a violation of probation. The electronics search term here permits review of data which is unlikely to reflect on the minor’s degree of compliance with probation. The condition was modified to require that the minor submit all electronic devices under his control to a search of text and voicemail messages, call logs, photographs, and email and social media accounts. [Editor’s Note: The court disagreed with Malik J. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 896 to the extent it precludes a search of any remotely stored information accessible through an electronic device.]

The electronics search term was not invalid under the criteria set forth in People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481. A juvenile court has authority to impose reasonable probation terms which 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. The electronics search condition was reasonably related to future criminality even though it was not directly related to the burglary. The minor admitted substantial drug usage and that he committed the burglary to get money for drugs. Access to the minor’s electronic communications is a useful tool to monitor drug transactions (citing In re Ricardo P. (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 676, and disagreeing with Erica R. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 907, which held an electronics search condition had no nexus to a drug possession offense and therefore lacked rehabilitative benefit).