Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Court: Probation Condition Banning All Travel to Mexico Overbroad
By TINA BAY, Staff Writer
A juvenile probation condition absolutely banning a ward of the court from traveling to Mexico was unconstitutionally overbroad, the Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled yesterday.
Div. One held that the condition was not reasonably tailored to fit the ward’s reformative and rehabilitative needs, and modified the condition before affirming a dispositional order by San Diego Superior Court Judge Federico Castro.
Daniel R., as he was identified, was charged last December with various crimes, including grand theft and possession of stolen property after he allegedly took a woman’s purse at a downtown San Diego ice rink. He was also charged with stealing $115 in cash from a middle school teacher’s desk, an incident for which he had been placed on informal probation.
At the wardship hearing, the probation officer’s report established that Daniel R. had admitted his responsibility for all of the thefts. With respect to the purse theft, the boy reportedly said he got to the ice rink by sneaking out of his house and taking the trolley. Additionally, Daniel was performing poorly in school and had conceded that he used marijuana and alcohol.
The probation officer recommended that Daniel be adjudged a ward of the court and be placed into a 90-day rehabilitation program. In addition to community service requirements, the officer recommended over 40 probation conditions, including one that “[m]inor is not to enter Mexico unless in the immediate custody and control of the parent or legal guardian and with prior Probation Officer permission.”
Castro adopted the probation officer’s recommendations but, over an objection by Daniel’s counsel, modified the Mexico travel condition to read that Daniel was “not to enter Mexico under any circumstances.”
The boy was in danger of going to Mexico and winding up in custody for stealing something, Castro explained, saying authorities there “will put him in jail and [he will] never get out [of] there.”
On appeal, deputy attorneys general argued Castro had a legitimate concern that Daniel, who had a history of running away and taking the trolley, would travel by trolley to Mexico and get into trouble there.
But Justice Richard D. Huffman, writing for the court, said the travel restriction was not reasonably related to Daniel’s theft-related crimes or to his rehabilitation.
“No evidence was before the court, in either the criminal or social histories, that Daniel had ever committed any crimes in Mexico, had any gang ties in Mexico, or had engaged in any questionable or criminal conduct in Mexico,” the justice wrote. “Nor was there any evidence that he had ever run away to Mexico after disobeying his parents, or that he had in fact ever traveled to Mexico with or without his parents or on the trolley.”
The justice added that Daniel had previously expressed his willingness to abide by a specifically tailored travel restriction like the one originally proposed by the probation officer.
In order to further public safety and rehabilitation without infringing excessively on Daniel’s constitutional rights, Huffman said, the condition must be modified to allow for travel with parental supervision provided that Daniel receive prior probation officer permission and reports the circumstances of his entry to Mexico to the officer upon his return.
Justices Alex C. McDonald and Joan Irion concurred in the opinion.
The case is In Re Daniel R., 06 S.O.S. 5586.
Copyright 2006, Metropolitan News Company