Juvenile’s challenge to gang-related restrictions rejected

Monday, July 9, 2012

A California juvenile court judge did not violate a minor’s First Amendment rights by prohibiting him from associating with anyone in a gang or possessing any gang-related clothing, tattoos or insignia, according to a state appeals court.

A minor known in court papers as J.E. had a history of criminal charges, including robbery and assault. The prosecutor alleged that at least one of his crimes was committed to aid a criminal street gang.

Though many of the charges were dismissed, the juvenile court judge in September 2011 imposed “Special Conditions of Probation for Gang Members and Associates” on the juvenile before declaring him a ward of the court and putting him on probation.

The special conditions included the judge’s admonition: “I must order that you not associate with any person that you know or who the probation officer informs you is a gang member. You’re not to possess, wear or display any clothing or insignia, tattoo, emblem, badge, or button that you know or the probation officer informs you evidence [sic] of affiliation with or membership in a gang.”

On appeal, J.E. contended that the conditions were too vague and too broad because they failed to define adequately the terms “gang” and “activity.”

But the 1st District Court of Appeals of California rejected this appeal in its June 28 opinion in In Re J.E. The appeals court noted that the conditions explained that the term “gang” meant a “criminal street gang” defined by California state law. The appeals court added that the juvenile court judge referenced the California law that defined a “criminal street gang.”

The decision is consistent with some other decisions in California imposing restrictions on gang affiliations with juveniles who have been involved in gang activity. Sometimes courts will find that certain probation restrictions are too broad, but often appeals courts uphold gang-related restrictions.

Tags: , , , ,