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In re L.B.

March 16, 2010

IN RE L.B., A PERSON COMING UNDER THE JUVENILE COURT LAW.
THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
L.B., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Sacramento County, Raoul Thorbourne, Judge. Reversed with directions. (Super. Ct. No. JV127633).

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Raye, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION*fn1

In May 2008 an amended petition was filed, alleging that minor L.B., age 15, came within the provisions of Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 in that she committed three misdemeanors: battery on a school employee (Pen. Code, § 243.6-count one), use of unlawful force on T.B. while on school property (Pen. Code, § 243.2, subd. (a)-count two), and possession of a knife on school property (Pen. Code, § 626.10, subd. (a)-count three).*fn2

At that time, the juvenile court (Referee Lindsey) and the minor's counsel expressed doubt as to the minor's competency to stand trial. Proceedings were suspended and an evaluation was ordered.

In September 2008, following a contested competency hearing, the court (Judge Thorbourne) found the minor competent to stand trial. In December 2008 and January 2009 the minor's counsel again expressed doubts about her competency and requested that the court do likewise. The court (Referee Chrisman and Judge Thorbourne) denied both requests.

On January 6, 2009, following a contested jurisdiction hearing, the court (Judge Thorbourne) found true and sustained all three counts. The court set the maximum period of confinement at one year four months. The minor was placed on court probation for six months. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 725, subd. (a).) She was ordered to perform 18 hours of informal community service and pay a $75 restitution fine.

On appeal, the minor contends (1) the court erred by failing to appoint the director of the regional center for the developmentally disabled to perform the competency evaluation, (2) the record contains insufficient evidence of competency, and (3) the true finding on count three is not supported by sufficient evidence of the length of the knife. We shall remand for further proceedings.

FACTS

On March 7, 2008, the lead teacher at UHS Keystone School saw the minor enter her classroom without permission and engage in a fight with T.B., a student. The minor approached T.B., asked whether she had been talking about the minor, and then struck T.B. in the arm without provocation. When the teacher tried to separate the girls, the minor grabbed T.B.'s hair, scratched her back, and tore off her shirt. T.B. received scratch marks down her back and bruises on her arm. During the separation process, the minor turned away from T.B. and intentionally struck the teacher on her arm, leaving a red mark. The entire incident lasted about two minutes.

A month later, on April 9, 2008, the minor and D.C., a student, were waiting in line at a security checkpoint on the school campus. The minor showed D.C. the handle of a knife that she had wrapped under her sweater. The minor explained that she had brought the knife to stab S.R., a girl with whom she had fought the previous day. D.C. told the minor not to stab S.R. and stated that she would tell the staff about the knife if the minor did not. After D.C. told behavioral specialist Clarence Shepard about the knife, Shepard confronted the minor, who then handed him the knife. The minor told Shepard that she was bringing the knife to scare S.R., not to hurt her. Shepard took the knife to the vice-principal and called the police.

DISCUSSION

I.

The minor contends, and the Attorney General effectively concedes, the juvenile court erred when, after suspending proceedings and ordering a competency evaluation by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist who could address, among other things, whether the minor "is mentally retarded," it failed to appoint the director of the regional center for the developmentally disabled to examine the minor. (Pen. Code, §§ 1369, subd. (a), 1370.1, subd. (a)(1)(H).)*fn3 The minor claims the error was prejudicial; the Attorney General terms it harmless. The minor has the better argument.

"Like an adult defendant, a minor has a right to a competency hearing in juvenile delinquency proceedings." (In re Ricky S. (2008) 166 Cal.App.4th 232, 234; see James H. v. Superior Court (1978) 77 Cal.App.3d 169, 174-175.) "The standard applied in adult criminal proceedings is also applied in juvenile delinquency proceedings, namely, whether the accused `"`has sufficient present ability to consult with his lawyer with a reasonable degree of rational understanding-and whether he has a rational as well as ...


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