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Name: In re Spencer S.
Case #: G040560
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 08/21/2009

The exclusion of juvenile misdemeanants from deferred entry of judgment (DEJ), under Welfare and Institutions Code section 790 et seq., is not unconstitutional because there is a rational basis for denying misdemeanants the benefits of the program. A juvenile court sustained a petition alleging misdemeanor battery, declared the minor a court ward, and placed him on formal probation. On appeal, the minor contended that exclusion of misdemeanants, such as himself, from DEJ violated his right to equal protection of laws. Section 790, requires a minor be a first-time felony offender charged with a crime that is not listed in section 707, subdivision (b) or Penal Code section 1203.06. The prosecuting attorney must give notice to the minor and the trial court of the program, and the court must conduct the necessary inquiry and exercise its discretion to determine whether the minor is suitable for DEJ. It may deny DEJ to a minor, otherwise eligible, if it deems the minor unsuitable for rehabilitation. After successfully completing probation, the minor may have the charge dismissed and records sealed. As to the first prong of the equal protection analysis, the appellate court assumed, without deciding, that juvenile felons and misdemeanants are similarly situated for purposes of the DEJ law. The court then considered whether there is a rational basis in denying the juvenile misdemeanant the DEJ program and concluded there was. The purpose of Proposition 21 was to institute a get-tough approach for serious offenders. Thus, DEJ’s benefits are rationally restricted to juvenile felons because of the severe consequences that now would otherwise be applicable to them but not to the misdemeanant. Furthermore, for the juvenile misdemeanant, other statues provided for sealing of juvenile records.
The court also found that the condition of probation forbidding him from associating with those known to him to be on probation was neither constitutionally overbroad nor violated his right to freedom of association as it promoted rehabilitation and reformation.