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In Re J.L., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. J.L

December 16, 2010


Appeal from a judgment of the Superior Court of Orange County, Donna L. Crandall, Judge. Affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded. (Super. Ct. No. DL009632-16)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Aronson, J



J.L. appeals from the juvenile court's adjudication sustaining allegations he committed four lewd and lascivious acts with three children, his cousins. (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602; Pen. Code, § 288, subd. (a); subsequent statutory citations are to the Penal Code, unless noted.) Defendant contends the dire consequences of the adjudication -- including lifetime registration as a sex offender, potential exposure to civil commitment as a sexually violent predator (SVP), and residency restrictions under Proposition 83 (Jessica's Law) -- are punitive in nature. Defendant argues due process requires a jury trial before the state may impose such severe punishment. He contrasts his lifetime punishment with the less severe outcomes that mark typical juvenile adjudications, where the United States Supreme Court has sanctioned proceedings less formal than a criminal prosecution, including the absence of a jury trial, based on the rehabilitative goals of the juvenile system. (See McKeiver v. Pennsylvania (1971) 403 U.S. 528 (McKeiver).) Defendant also argues equal protection of the law requires a jury trial before a trial court may impose the lifetime punishment he faces. Defendant asserts juveniles subject to these consequences are similarly situated with adults who are subjected to these identical consequences only after a criminal conviction. Because their similarly-situated adult counterparts are entitled to a jury trial, defendant asserts equal protection requires that juveniles should have the same right.

Defendant's due process and equal protection arguments hinge on whether the consequences he identifies are punitive. As we explain below, controlling precedent establishes that neither sex offender registration, nor SVP civil commitment proceedings constitute punishment. Defendant's premise therefore fails as to these consequences.

But we agree with defendant that the lifetime residency restrictions he faces as a result of his juvenile adjudication are punitive in nature. We recently determined in People v. Mosley (2010) 188 Cal.App.4th 1090, 1112 (Mosley), that the residency restrictions imposed by Jessica's Law (§ 3003.5, subd. (b)) are "overwhelmingly punitive" in effect for adult offenders, and we see no reason to reach a different conclusion for juvenile offenders. If anything, the restrictions have a harsher effect on juveniles because they are usually dependent on their parents or guardians for shelter, and therefore the family either must relocate as a consequence of the residency restrictions or expel the juvenile from the family home.

United States Supreme Court precedent teaches in McKeiver and elsewhere (e.g., Duncan v. Louisiana (1968) 391 U.S. 145 (Duncan)) that the constitutional interest in a jury trial includes a dignity interest in requiring community participation in the form of a jury trial before severe punishment is imposed. Because the residency restrictions are so overwhelmingly punitive in nature, we conclude the state must provide a jury trial before imposing those consequences. We conclude denial of the right to a jury trial in these circumstances violated due process and the requirement of equal protection, and therefore the residency restrictions must be enjoined as to J.L., absent a jury trial on remand. In all other respects the judgment is affirmed.



The juvenile court first took jurisdiction over defendant at age 14 in December 2003, based on his admitted commission of residential burglary and misdemeanors, including vandalism and assault on a schoolmate. The present appeal involves matters that surfaced four years later in 2007, when defendant was 17 years old. That summer, defendant lived with his cousin, N.V., and her husband and five children. Defendant inserted his finger into the vagina of one of the children, four-year-old L.C., while she sat on the toilet. L.C. screamed and, when her mother ran to the bathroom, defendant stated he merely had turned on the light for L.C.

Defendant previously lived with N.V. and her children in 2001 and 2002. Twelve-year-old R.O. testified that when he was seven, he awoke in his bedroom to find defendant touching his penis, "playing with" it, and moving it around. Defendant threatened to kill R.O. if he told his mother about the incident. Later that year, R.O. went to defendant's room to play one of defendant's video games. Defendant refused, explaining, "[F]irst you have to have sex with me." R.O. complied when defendant directed him to pull down his pants and bend over. Defendant sodomized R.O. and ejaculated. Defendant admitted in 2007 to an investigating police officer, Detective Ryan Tozzie, that he sodomized R.O. on two occasions.

A.B., the 15-year-old daughter of defendant's other aunt, testified that when she was nine or 10 years old, defendant placed his hand on her leg and moved it towards her vagina as she watched him play a video game. He warned A.B. not to tell her parents, threatening further, "And if you do tell your parents I will kill your parents." A.B. fled the room.

The defense argued defendant's relatives concocted the allegations. Defendant revealed to Tozzie no one in his extended family liked him, nor did his relatives get along with each other. Defendant's sister, C.A., testified her mother and her mother's sisters disliked each other and did not talk to one another based on "an ongoing fight" that had "always been among all the sisters." According to C.A., defendant did not live with N.V.'s family in 2001, 2002, or any time after 2000.

Finding the petition's allegations to be true beyond a reasonable doubt, the juvenile court continued jurisdiction over defendant, committed him to the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (the youth authority), and ordered him to register for life as a sex offender. Defendant now appeals.



Defendant contends he was entitled to a jury trial because of the onerous lifetime consequences of his juvenile adjudication. Specifically, based on the allegations he committed lewd and lascivious acts against children (§ 288, subd. (a)), the consequences defendant faced at his bench trial in juvenile court included lifetime registration as a sex offender after commitment to the youth authority (§ 290.008, subds. (a) & (c)(2)), potential exposure to civil commitment as a sexually violent predator (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600, subds. (a)(1), (b) & (g); see Welf. & Inst. Code, § 6600.1 [violation of § 288, subd. (a), against a child under age 14 constitutes "a 'sexually violent offense' for purposes of [s]section 6600" et seq. (SVPA)]), and permanent, mandatory residency restrictions under Jessica's Law (§ 3003.5, subd. (b)). We address these consequences in reverse order. As we explain, defendant's due process and equal protection arguments for a jury trial hinge on his premise that the consequences amount to punishment and therefore differentiate his adjudication from ordinary juvenile proceedings.

A. Residency Restrictions

J.L. contends the residency restrictions mandated by Jessica's Law constitute severe punishment that triggers a due process right to a jury trial. He contends the severity of the penalty, particularly its lifetime duration, distinguishes it from ordinary juvenile dispositions, which do not as a matter of due process require a jury trial. (See McKeiver, supra, 403 U.S. 528.) J.L. contends due process requires a different result because the residency restrictions in Jessica's Law are punitive in nature. ...

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