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In Re E.P., A Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. v. E.P

March 9, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. JD10363)

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

In re E.P. CA3


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Is it an abuse of discretion to sentence to the Department of Juvenile Justice (DJJ) a 14 year old who admitted he stabbed another teenager 10 times with a screwdriver and nearly killed him, threatened his mother with a knife, was expelled from middle school, was truant at a continuation school, had committed a number of other crimes, and who abused drugs and alcohol? Defendant E.P. contends that, despite the seriousness of the crimes, the trial court abused its discretion by failing to consider less restrictive alternative placements such as boot camp or a group home. We disagree.

Having reviewed the entire record, we can find no abuse of discretion. We accept the Attorney General's concession that the probation conditions must be stricken because once a ward is committed to the DJJ, the DJJ has sole responsibility for the ward and the juvenile court's supervision of the minor ends. Moreover, we conclude the trial court properly sentenced defendant to the maximum term of seven years four months. The probation conditions are stricken, and in all other respects, the judgment is affirmed.


The factual basis for defendant's plea was summarized in the probation report. On August 15, 2010, defendant stabbed Alex Marquez, a 16 year old he did not know, over 10 times in the torso with a screwdriver in a public bathroom at a park. Defendant punctured the victim's lung and pericardial sac surrounding his heart, requiring emergency surgery. The victim spent several days in the intensive care unit. His mother reports that the unprovoked attack had a profound and deleterious effect on her son's personality.

During a search of defendant's bedroom, the police found a four-inch folding knife.


A decision to commit a juvenile to the DJJ is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. (In re Asean D. (1993) 14 Cal.App.4th 467, 473.) "An appellate court 'must indulge all reasonable inferences to support the decision of the juvenile court and will not disturb its findings when there is substantial evidence to support them.'" (In re Jose T. (2010) 191 Cal.App.4th 1142, 1147.)

Defendant acknowledges that the court did not have to give reasons for committing him to the DJJ as long as the record contains sufficient evidence to support the commitment. (In re Ismael A. (1989) 207 Cal.App.3d 911, 914--915.) The court was at liberty to consider the totality of the circumstances. (In re John H. (1978) 21 Cal.3d 18, 27.) "The purposes of juvenile wardship proceedings are twofold: to treat and rehabilitate the delinquent minor, and to protect the public from criminal conduct. [Citations.] The preservation of the safety and welfare of a state's citizenry is foremost among its government's interests, and it is squarely within the police power to seek to rehabilitate those who have committed misdeeds while protecting the populace from further misconduct." (In re Jose C. (2009) 45 Cal.4th 534, 555.) "[J]uvenile courts are required to consider 'the circumstances and gravity of the offense committed by the minor, and . . . the minor's previous delinquent history.' [Citations.]" (In re G.C. (2007) 157 Cal.App.4th 405, 409.)

Defendant recognizes the seriousness of the offense he committed but argues nonetheless that the court did not satisfy the rehabilitative purpose of the juvenile justice system by failing to consider less restrictive alternatives to placement with the DJJ. He excises a few nuggets of favorable evidence from a mountain of evidence that he remains aggressive, out of control, and unrepentant, all vices exacerbated by his substance abuse. The totality of circumstances therefore constitutes more than ample evidence to support the trial court's decision to commit him to the DJJ and to refute defendant's argument that the court abused its discretion.

We need not belabor the gravity of defendant's conduct. Suffice it to say that an innocent young man nearly lost his life when defendant, unprovoked, attacked him with a screwdriver and thrust it into his torso at least 10 times. While it may be hard to imagine that a 14 year old is capable of such unmitigated violence, the court reasonably exercised its discretion to ...

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