February 9, 2017

Supreme Court upholds no-gun, no-drugs probation conditions without express knowledge requirement, and it identifies a related issue for possible later review

In People v. Hall, the Supreme Court today holds that probation conditions prohibiting a defendant from possessing firearms or illegal drugs are valid even if they don’t specifically bar knowing possession of those things.  The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar rejects the argument that the conditions are unconstitutionally vague.  Because “revocation [of probation] requires knowledge,” the court reasons, it is unnecessary “to modify those conditions simply to make explicit what the law already makes implicit.”

The court also identifies an issue that could be ripe for review in another case.  Citing cases from other jurisdictions, the opinion expressly leaves undecided the question “whether sustaining a probation violation requires a showing of willfulness where the probation violation poses a direct threat to public safety or otherwise frustrates the assumptions underlying the grant of probation.”

The court affirms the First District, Division One, Court of Appeal.  It disapproves of 2016 and 2015 decisions by the First District, Division Four, a 2013 decision by the Sixth District, and a 2009 decision by the Third District.  (The 2016 case — In re Ana C. — is a grant-and-hold case and needed to be disapproved because, under a recent rule change, the grant of review did not automatically depublish the Court of Appeal’s opinion.)

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