People v. Acosta

20 Cal. App. 5th 225, 228 Cal. Rptr. 3d 822 (2018)



A court has broad discretion to impose reasonable conditions of probation, as it may determine 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, and generally and specifically for the reformation and rehabilitation of the probationer. Pen. Code, § 1203.1, subd. (j). If a probation condition serves to rehabilitate and protect public safety, the condition may impinge upon a constitutional right otherwise enjoyed by the probationer, who is not entitled to the same degree of constitutional protection as other citizens. A condition of probation will not be upheld, however, if it: (1) has no relationship to the crime of which the defendant was convicted; (2) relates to conduct that is not criminal, and; (3) requires or forbids conduct that is not reasonably related to future criminality. This test is conjunctive—all three prongs must be satisfied before a reviewing court will invalidate a probation term. Judicial discretion to set conditions of probation is circumscribed by constitutional considerations. A probation condition that imposes limitations on a person's constitutional rights must closely tailor those limitations to the purpose of the condition to avoid being invalidated as unconstitutionally overbroad.


Defendant Brian Acosta pleaded guilty to two counts of felony vandalism and admitted the gang enhancement attached to each count. At sentencing, a California trial court placed defendant on probation for three years and imposed certain conditions of probation, four of which defendant challenged on appeal: (1) an electronic search condition; (2) a stay-away condition; (3) a treatment, therapy, and counseling condition; and (4) alcohol and drug conditions. 


Were the conditions imposed on defendant's probation constitutional?


Yes, in part.


The appellate court struck the drug and the treatment, therapy, and counseling conditions of probation, but otherwise affirmed the judgment of conviction. The electronic search condition would allow a probation officer to ensure defendant was complying with the gang conditions of his probation. The condition was narrowly tailored so as to limit the impact on defendant's constitutional rights to privacy, speech, and association. The court's conclusion that the state's interest in public safety outweighed the slight invasion of defendant's privacy that resulted from a probation officer having access to his electronic devices was buttressed by defendant's poor performance on probation, which was a direct result of his gang activities, and by his failure to acknowledge his crimes benefited his gang. The probation condition requiring defendant to stay away from the private residences he vandalized with gang graffiti was reasonably related to the offenses he pleaded guilty to. The trial court properly exercised its discretion when it provided the probation department with the discretion to monitor defendant's alcohol consumption to help keep him compliant with the terms of his probation. However, the drug condition was unreasonable, as there was no evidence that defendant used or sold drugs including marijuana during a 10-year period. Treatment, therapy, and counseling conditions were stricken, as there was no evidence that defendant suffered from any mental health issues, took any medication for such issues, or had any condition requiring such treatment. 


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