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California Court of Appeal: Probation Officers Can Search Smart Phones

Today the First Appellate District of the Court of Appeal of California issued a decision, In re C.A., No. A153686, 2018 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 6523 (Cal. Ct. App. Sept. 25, 2018), ruling on a juvenile criminal defendant's challenge to the electronic search conditions imposed on his probation. The conditions allowed a probation officer to search the electronic storage and communication devices of the Defendant without consent, a search warrant, or probable cause. C.A. was required to disclose his passwords and could only possess portable communication devices with the consent of the probation officer. He was also forbidden to use social media sites and the probation officer, school officials and his parents were allowed to monitor his internet usage.

The Court of Appeal ruled that the Defendant forfeited any constitutional challenge to the conditions by failing to object to them when they were imposed. The challenge was a fact based one based on the nature of his offenses and his personal situation, and so could be forfeited, unlike a challenged based on a question of law.

The Court also rejected the Defendant's claim of ineffective assistance counsel, since there was an alternative to the electronic search conditions. C.A. could have been confined at a special camp during his probation.

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