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In re G.F.

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

May 30, 2017

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

         Superior Court County No. 2015035760 of Ventura Kevin J. McGee, Judge

          Stephen P. Lipson, Ventura County Public Defender, Michael C. McMahon, Chief Deputy Public Defender, William Quest, Senior Deputy Public Defender, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Kamala D. Harris, Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Paul M. Roadarmel, Jr., Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Rene Judkiewicz, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          PERREN, J.

         Appellant G.F., a minor, was the subject of a delinquency petition alleging that he possessed a sharpened letter opener on school grounds. (Pen. Code, § 626.10, subd. (a); Welf. & Inst. Code, [1] § 602.) Prior to arraignment, the court granted the prosecution's motion to dismiss the petition and proceed with an informal program of supervision “pursuant to [section] 654.” After the probation department verified that appellant had successfully completed all that was required of him, he moved to have the records pertaining to his dismissed petition sealed under section 786. The prosecution opposed the motion and the trial court denied it.

         We conclude appellant is entitled to have his records sealed under section 786. The statute, as relevant here, is intended to apply to minors, like appellant, who successfully complete an informal program of supervision after a delinquency petition has been filed against them. Although section 786 is intended to apply to minors who have a pending delinquency petition and have completed a program of supervision under section 654.2 rather than section 654, this is only so because the latter form of supervision is supposed to be undertaken in lieu of filing of a petition. Once a petition has been filed, as it was here, the minor's program of supervision is governed by section 654.2, not section 654. The People, having created the conundrum by urging the court to prematurely dismiss appellant's petition “pursuant to [section] 654, ” cannot be heard to claim otherwise. Accordingly, we reverse.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         On November 13, 2015, appellant was charged in a section 602 petition with possessing a weapon on school grounds. At the arraignment hearing, the People “move[d] to dismiss the petition pursuant to [section] 654... [a]nd... request[ed] that the Court[] refer it back to Youth Services for handling.” The court asked defense counsel if he had any objection and counsel replied, “No objection.”

         The court then ordered the petition “dismissed under section 654, [f]or informal handling” and directed appellant “to report to Probation so that can happen.” The court asked appellant “do you understand what's occurring here” and appellant replied, “Yes, your honor.” The court explained: “So you'll have a chance to have this matter taken care of informally outside of the court. That would be a good thing for you. So you want to make sure you do what Probation indicates you need to do to be successful on informal [sic].” The court asked appellant's parents if they had any questions, and appellant's father replied, “No. Thank you.” The court's minute order reflects the petition was “dismissed without prejudice pursuant to... [section] 654.”

         After appellant satisfactorily completed a program of supervision, he moved to have the records pertaining to his petition sealed under section 786. The People opposed the motion on the ground that section 786 does not apply because appellant completed a program of supervision under section 654, not section 654.2. In denying the motion, the court told defense counsel, “I find the equities to be with your client, ... and I find the law to be with the District Attorney.”

         DISCUSSION

         Appellant contends the court erred in denying his motion for an order sealing the records pertaining to his dismissed delinquency petition pursuant to section 786. He claims he was entitled to have his records sealed because he “satisfactorily complete[d]... an informal program of supervision pursuant to Section 654.2[.]” (§ 786.) We independently review the juvenile's court ruling (In re Gina S. (2005) 133 Cal.App.4th 1074, 1082) and conclude that appellant is entitled to the requested relief.[2]

         “‘As in any case involving statutory interpretation, our fundamental task here is to determine the Legislature's intent so as to effectuate the law's purpose.' [Citation.] ‘We begin with the plain language of the statute, affording the words of the provision their ordinary and usual meaning and viewing them in their statutory context, because the language employed in the Legislature's enactment generally is the most reliable indicator of legislative intent.' [Citations.] The plain meaning controls if there is no ambiguity in the statutory language. [Citation.]'” (People v. Cornett (2012) 53 Cal.4th 1261, 1265.) The literal meaning of a statute's words may be disregarded, however, to avoid an absurd result. (People v. Bell (2015) 241 Cal.App.4th 315, 351.)

         The relevant version of section 786, subdivision (a) provides in pertinent part: “If a minor satisfactorily completes (1) an informal program of supervision pursuant to Section 654.2, (2) probation under Section 725, or (3) a term of probation for any offense, the court shall order the petition dismissed. The court shall order sealed all records pertaining to that dismissed petition in the custody of the juvenile court, and in the custody of ...


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