California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, First Division
In re JOSE S., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
JOSE S., Defendant and Appellant.
from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County No.
J199255, Aaron H. Katz, Judge. Affirmed.
Cynthia M. Jones, under appointment by the Court of Appeal,
for Defendant and Appellant.
Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant
Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney
General, Eric A. Swenson and Allison V. Hawley, Deputy
Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.
McCONNELL, P. J.
S., a former ward of the juvenile court, moved under Welfare
and Institutions Code section 781 to seal juvenile records
related to an admitted charge of lewd and lascivious conduct
that occurred in 2002. The juvenile court denied the motion,
finding Jose was precluded from relief under section 781
because of an additional admitted and disqualifying charge of
assault with a deadly weapon in 2005. On appeal, Jose
contends that each offense constitutes a separate case for
purposes of section 781 and that the records related to his
2002 offense should, therefore, be sealed. Jose alternatively
asserts that the court's denial of his motion to seal was
improper because the 2005 assault does not fall within the
list of disqualifying offenses set forth in section 707,
subdivision (b). We reject these contentions and affirm the
AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
2002, the district attorney filed a petition under section
602 alleging Jose, age 13 at the time, violated Penal Code
section 288.5, subdivision (a) by engaging in three or more
acts of substantial sexual conduct with his five-year-old
sister. Jose admitted a violation of the lessor included
offense of lewd and lascivious conduct under Penal Code
section 288(a), was adjudged a ward of the juvenile court,
and placed on probation. Jose was initially placed with
extended family and later in a group home. He received sexual
offender treatment and, according to probation department
reports, did well in his placements.
December 2005, shortly after the juvenile court returned Jose
to his parents' care, he was taken into custody by the
probation department and the San Diego County Police
Department after stabbing another high school aged boy. Jose
told the investigating police officer that the victim had
taunted him for over a year and on the day of the fight had
antagonized him. Jose admitted to the officer that he chased
the boy down with a knife in his pocket and stabbed him twice
before fleeing the scene and throwing the bloody knife in a
result, the district attorney filed a second petition in
Jose's existing delinquency matter alleging Jose
committed attempted murder (Pen. Code, §§ 187,
subd. (a) and 664) and assault with a deadly weapon (Pen.
Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1)), and that with respect to
each offense Jose personally used a deadly weapon (Pen. Code,
§ 1192.7, subd. (c)(23)) and inflicted great bodily
injury (Pen. Code, § 12022.7, subd. (a)). The petition
stated (1) Jose was "within the provisions of Section
602 of the Juvenile Court Law, " (2) the offenses
enumerated in the document "may result in the violation
of any probation previously granted and the imposition of any
previously unexpired term of detention, " and (3)
"[t]he previous disposition has not been effective in
the rehabilitation and protection of the minor in that said
minor's performance on probation has been unsatisfactory,
thereby violating the specific terms and conditions of [his]
probation and demonstrating the necessity for further orders
of the Juvenile Court pursuant to [section] 777."
recommendation report accompanying the petition, the
probation department stated that "[c]ustody is taken
pursuant to WIC 726 (a)(2)" and that Jose was
"tried on Probation while in custody [and] failed to
reform." At the readiness hearing on the petition, Jose
admitted he committed assault with a deadly weapon and that
he personally used a deadly weapon. The court dismissed the
other allegations in the second petition. In its
dispositional report, the probation department recommended
Jose be referred to the California Youth Authority (CYA)
based on the serious nature of both Jose's earlier
offense and the recent offense.
several continuances of the dispositional hearing to address
Jose's ongoing sexual offender treatment for the 2002
offense, the juvenile court adopted the probation
department's recommendation and committed Jose to the
CYA. The court's dispositional order indicated Jose was a
continued ward pursuant to section 602 and that custody was
taken under section 726, subdivision (a)(2). The court
aggregated both true findings during Jose's wardship
pursuant to section 726 and Penal Code section 1170.1,
subdivision (a) and committed Jose to the CYA for a period of
nine years. The court also found Jose had committed a section
707, subdivision (b) offense. While committed, Jose graduated
from high school and completed sexual offender treatment. He
was released from CYA after serving five years and released
from parole in 2013.
2015, Jose requested that his juvenile court records be
sealed. The trial court appointed a public defender to assist
Jose. Acknowledging that Jose's 2005 offense was not
eligible to be sealed under section 781 because it was an
offense enumerated in section 707, subdivision (b), the
public defender sought to reduce Jose's 2005 plea to a
lesser included offense. At a hearing in April 2016, the
public defender explained she had several meetings with the
district attorney to change the plea for the 2005 offense,
but the parties could not reach agreement. The juvenile court
then granted the relief requested with respect to Jose's
days later, the court clerk contacted Jose's attorney and
notified her that the court's system could not
accommodate the order to seal only the 2002 petition. The
juvenile court set a special hearing to address the problem.
At the hearing, the court explained that once the clerk
enters the "sealing codes, the entire record is
dismissed or abolished" and "everything will be
wiped from the system" contrary to the court's
order. The court then rescinded the sealing order and set a
further hearing to consider Jose's request.
next hearing, the district attorney stated its position that
because of the 2005 assault offense, none of Jose's
juvenile records were eligible to be sealed under section
781. The juvenile court expressed its desire to seal
Jose's record with respect to the 2002 offense, and
commended him for turning his life around and becoming a
positive member of society. The court concluded, however,
that the district attorney's position was correct and it
did not have the authority to seal any of Jose's records.
juvenile court's ruling on the release of juvenile
records is reviewed for abuse of discretion. (In re
Jeffrey T. (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 1015, 1018
(Jeffrey).) However, "we independently
determine the proper interpretation of a statute."
(Ibid.) "Under general settled canons of
statutory construction, we ascertain the Legislature's
intent in order to effectuate the law's purpose.
[Citation.] We must look to the statute's words and give
them their 'usual and ordinary meaning.' [Citation.]
'The statute's plain meaning controls the court's
interpretation unless its words are ambiguous. If the plain
language of a statute is unambiguous, no court need, or
should, go beyond that pure expression of legislative
intent.' " (White v. Ultramar, Inc. (1999)
21 Cal.4th 563, 572.)
reviewing court also must examine the statutory language
" ' "in context, keeping in mind the nature and
obvious purpose of the statute...." [Citation.]'
[Citation.] In other words, we 'must harmonize "the
various parts of a statutory enactment... by considering the
particular clause or section in the context of the statutory
framework as a whole" ' [citation], so that all of
the statutes in the scheme will 'have effect.'
[Citation.] And '[w]e must also avoid a construction that
would produce absurd consequences, which we presume the
Legislature did not intend.' " (In re Charles
G. (2004) 115 Cal.App.4th 608, 614.) Further,
"ambiguity in a criminal statute should be resolved in
favor of lenity, giving the defendant the benefit of every
reasonable doubt on ...