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In re Alonzo J.

Supreme Court of California

April 3, 2014

In re ALONZO J., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law.
v.
ALONZO J., Defendant and Appellant THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,

Petition for certiorari filed at, 06/30/2014

Page 925

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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Superior Court of Sacramento County, No. JV130980, Robert M. Twiss, Judge. Court of Appeal, Third Appellate District, No. C068046.

Joanne Kirchner, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

Jonathan Grossman for Pacific Juvenile Defender Center as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Page 927

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Michael P. Farrell, Assistant Attorney General, Julie A. Hokans and Jeffrey A. White, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Paulino G. Durá n, Public Defender (Sacramento), and Arthur L. Bowie, Assistant Public Defender, for Office of the Public Defender for Sacramento County as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

[320 P.3d 1128] [169 Cal.Rptr.3d 662] KENNARD, J.

In a juvenile delinquency proceeding, a 13-year-old child was being detained in juvenile hall on allegations that he had committed two felony assaults and a misdemeanor vandalism. The prosecution offered a plea deal under which the child could return to the home he shared with his mother and his sister, on probation, if he admitted committing one felony assault. The child wanted to accept the offer, but his attorney refused to consent and the juvenile court would not accept the child's admission of guilt without that consent. After a contested jurisdictional hearing, the juvenile court sustained all three charges against the child and directed that he be placed in either a foster or group home, a residential treatment center, or the home of a friend or relative.

The Court of Appeal reversed, concluding that the juvenile court had erred in not allowing the child to accept the prosecution's plea bargain offer over his attorney's objection. The Court of Appeal held that although the consent of the child's attorney was required for an admission of the charges, it was not required for a no contest plea, and that the juvenile court should have allowed the child to accept the plea offer by pleading no contest. We granted review.

We conclude that in a delinquency proceeding the consent of the child's attorney is required for a no contest plea, just as it is for an admission of the charging allegations. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeal's judgment.

I

Alonzo J. was born in July 1997. On February 18, 2010, he was living in Sacramento with his mother and his 16-year-old sister when his mother telephoned the Sacramento Police Department. She said that Alonzo, upset

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because she would not [169 Cal.Rptr.3d 663] buy him a bicycle, had tried to stab her with a steak knife, saying he wanted to kill her. She pinned him down and took the knife away, sustaining a small cut on her wrist. Alonzo's mother also mentioned that on an earlier occasion, in December 2009, he had assaulted her with a baseball bat, breaking her thumb.

Based on his mother's statements to the police, Alonzo was arrested and placed in juvenile hall. On February 22, 2010, he was charged in a juvenile court delinquency petition (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602) with one count of felony assault with a deadly weapon (a knife) on his mother (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1)). He was then 12 years old.

In March 2010, with the consent of his attorney, Alonzo J. admitted the allegation that he had assaulted his mother with a knife. The juvenile court deemed the offense a misdemeanor. Based on Alonzo's admission, he was declared a ward of the court and released to his mother's care and custody, under a probation officer's supervision, subject to various probation conditions including 30 days of electronic monitoring.

On the night of November 1, 2010, Alonzo's sister telephoned the Sacramento Police Department [320 P.3d 1129] to report a disturbance at the family home. When the police arrived, Alonzo's mother told them that she and Alonzo had argued; that Alonzo, after kicking a hole in her bedroom door, had swung a skateboard at her and missed; and that when she tried to hold him down he hit her in the face with a portable electric heater. Alonzo's sister confirmed to the police that Alonzo had hit their mother in the face with a portable heater. Alonzo was taken into custody and placed in juvenile hall.

Based on this incident, Alonzo was charged in another delinquency petition with two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon (the skateboard and the metal heater) and by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1)) and one misdemeanor count of vandalism ( id., § 594, subd. (b)(2)(A)). To represent Alonzo on those charges, the juvenile court appointed the Sacramento County Public Defender, who assigned the task to Assistant Public Defender Jo Ann Harris. Pending the jurisdictional hearing, the juvenile court ordered that Alonzo continue to be detained in juvenile hall.

Before the jurisdictional hearing, Alonzo's mother tried unsuccessfully to have the charges against him dismissed and " repeatedly indicated her unwillingness to cooperate with the [d]istrict ...


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