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Name: In re Ricardo P.
Case #: A144149
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 10/22/2015
Subsequent History: Review granted 2/17/2016: S230923

Juvenile probation condition that permitted electronic searches of minor’s cell phone and the electronic accounts accessible through the device was unconstitutionally overbroad. Ricardo admitted two felony counts of first degree burglary and the juvenile court declared him a ward and placed him on probation with numerous terms and conditions, including a condition that required him to submit his “electronics including passwords . . . to search.” Ricardo objected to the condition but the juvenile court found that it was appropriate in light of the fact Ricardo admitted that he committed the offenses while under the influence of marijuana and minors typically brag about their marijuana use by posting on the Internet. Ricardo appealed, challenging the electronics search condition on numerous grounds including that it was unconstitutionally overbroad. Held: Condition stricken. A probation condition that imposes limitations on a person’s constitutional rights must closely tailor those limitations to the purpose of the condition to avoid being invalidated as unconstitutionally overbroad. The purpose of the electronics search condition was to permit monitoring of Ricardo’s involvement with illegal drugs, but the condition placed no limitations on the types of electronic data that could be searched and would allow review of personal information that was “highly unlikely to shed any light on whether Ricardo is complying with the other conditions of his probation, drug-related or otherwise.” The court struck the condition as overbroad and remanded the matter to allow the juvenile court to impose a condition permitting searches of a narrower range of electronic information. The court also disagreed with the limitations on electronic search conditions outlined in In re Malik J. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 896, 906.

Electronic search condition was not invalid under People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481 because it was reasonably related to enabling the effective supervision of the minor. Ricardo also argued that the condition was invalid under the Lent test. Under the this test, a condition is invalid if it (1) has no relationship to the crime of which the offender was convicted, (2) relates to conduct which is not in itself criminal, and (3) requires or forbids conduct which is not reasonably related to future criminality. The Court of Appeal determined that the electronic search condition did not satisfy the third element and was therefore valid. Although there was no evidence that Ricardo had used electronics or social media to communicate about anything illegal including past marijuana use, under People v. Olguin (2008) 45 Cal.4th 375, 380-381, a probation condition is “reasonably related to future criminality” even if it has no relationship to the crime of which the defendant was convicted if it enables the probation officer to supervise the probationer’s compliance with other conditions of probation. Here, the electronics search condition enables the probation officer to supervise Ricardo’s compliance with the drug-related probation conditions. Although the court “share[d] some of Ricardo’s skepticism about the prevalence of minors’ boasting on the Internet about marijuana use, [it could not] say that the court’s identification of this phenomenon was speculative or . . . so outside the bounds of reason as to constitute an abuse of discretion.” Although In re Erica R. (2015) 240 Cal.App.4th 907, 910-913, reached a different conclusion on this issue, the court declined to adopt its reasoning.

Minor lacked standing to argue that the electronic search condition invades the privacy of individuals he communicates with. Ricardo also challenged the electronic search condition based on Penal Code section 632, subdivision (a), which prohibits electronic eavesdropping. Ricardo argued that the electronics search condition allows the probation department to invade the privacy of people with whom he communicates in violation of the statute. The Court of Appeal found that Ricardo had forfeited the argument by failing to raise it below and that, even if not forfeited, Ricardo lacks standing to assert it because it involves others’ rights, not his. (See B.C. Cotton, Inc. v. Voss (1995) 33 Cal.App.4th 929, 947-948.)