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People v. Moran

Supreme Court of California

August 4, 2016

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
JEFFREY MICHAEL MORAN, Defendant and Appellant.

         Santa Clara County Super. Ct. No. C1243366, Ct.App. 6 H039330 Ron M. Del Pozzo Judge.

          Joshua H. Schraer, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Assistant Attorney General, Laurence K. Sullivan, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Alisha M. Carlile and Leif M. Dautch, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          WERDEGAR, J.

         We granted review in this case to consider the Court of Appeal’s ruling that a probation condition prohibiting defendant Moran from entering the premises or adjacent parking lot of any Home Depot store in California violates his constitutional right to travel. Because we find no such constitutional violation, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeal.

         I. Facts

         Defendant Moran entered a Home Depot store in San Jose, placed items valued at $128 in his backpack, and left the store without paying. Confronted by store security, he admitted the theft and explained that he had hoped to resell the stolen items. He later pleaded no contest to second degree burglary and having served a prior prison term for vehicle theft (Pen. Code, §§ 459, 667.5, subd. (b)), [1] in exchange for an indicated sentence of probation on conditions including a year in jail and, at issue here, the condition that he not “go on the premises, parking lot adjacent or any store of Home Depot in the State of California.” He did not object to these conditions.

         On appeal, the Court of Appeal found that “[a]lthough... there is an obvious nexus between appellant’s crime and the probation condition as it relates to the specific Home Depot store from which he took the merchandise, ... the condition should contain an exception that would allow [him] to be on Home Depot property on legitimate business....” According to the appellate court, because the condition lacked this exception, it was unconstitutionally overbroad. That court also suggested the condition violated defendant’s constitutional right to travel, noting that the “right to travel ‘is simply elementary in a free society. Freedom of movement is basic in our scheme of values.’ ” The Court of Appeal struck the challenged probation condition and, as so modified, affirmed the judgment. We granted the People’s petition for review.

         II. Discussion

         The People argue the state may place a criminal offender on probation, subject to a condition that he or she stay away from the property of the victim, without contravening the constitutionally guaranteed right to travel. Consistent with established law, [2] we first address whether the probation condition was permissible under state law before turning to resolve any potential federal constitutional issue posed in the case.

         A. Statutory Basis for the Condition

         Following a defendant’s conviction of a crime, the sentencing court may choose among a variety of dispositional options. One option is to release the offender on probation. “Probation is generally reserved for convicted criminals whose conditional release into society poses minimal risk to public safety and promotes rehabilitation.” (People v. Carbajal (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1114, 1120 (Carbajal).) A grant of probation is “qualitatively different from such traditional forms of punishment as fines or imprisonment. Probation is neither ‘punishment’ (see § 15) nor a criminal ‘judgment’ (see § 1445). Instead, courts deem probation an act of clemency in lieu of punishment [citation], and its primary purpose is rehabilitative in nature [citation].” (People v. Howard (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1081, 1092.) Accordingly, we have explained that a grant of probation is an act of grace or clemency, and an offender has no right or privilege to be granted such release. (People v. Anderson (2010) 50 Cal.4th 19, 32.) Stated differently, “[p]robation is not a right, but a privilege.” (People v. Bravo (1987) 43 Cal.3d 600, 608.)

         Although the Legislature has directed in some circumstances that probation be unavailable[3] or limited, [4] in most circumstances the trial court has broad discretion to choose probation when sentencing a criminal offender. A reviewing court will defer to such choice absent a manifest abuse of that discretion. (People v. Franco (1986) 181 Cal.App.3d 342, 348; People v. Goodson (1978) 80 Cal.App.3d 290, 295.)

         When an offender chooses probation, thereby avoiding incarceration, state law authorizes the sentencing court to impose conditions on such release that are “fitting and proper to the end that justice may be done, that amends may be made to society for the breach of the law, for any injury done to any person resulting from that breach, and... for the reformation and rehabilitation of the probationer.” (§ 1203.1, subd. (j).) Accordingly, we have recognized a sentencing court has “broad discretion to impose conditions to foster rehabilitation and to protect public safety pursuant to Penal Code section 1203.1.” (Carbajal, supra, 10 Cal.4th at p. 1120.) But such discretion is not unlimited: “[A] condition of probation must serve a purpose specified in the statute, ” and conditions regulating noncriminal conduct must be “ ‘reasonably related to the crime of which the defendant was convicted or to future criminality.’ ” (Id. at p. 1121.) “If the defendant finds the conditions of probation more onerous than the sentence he would otherwise face, he may refuse probation” (People v. Anderson, supra, 50 Cal.4th at p. 32) and simply “choose to serve the sentence” (People v. Olguin (2008) 45 Cal.4th 375, 379 (Olguin)).[5]

         On appeal, “[w]e review conditions of probation for abuse of discretion.” (Olguin, supra, 45 Cal.4th at p. 379.) That is, a reviewing court will disturb the trial court’s decision to impose a particular condition of probation only if, under all the circumstances, that choice is arbitrary ...

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