In re T.O., No. E077783 (Cal. Ct. App. 2022)
Nature of Case: In 2020, T.O., a juvenile, was charged with rape and forcible sodomy of a child under 14 years old. The Court referred the matter to the probation department for recommendations. The probation department highlighted three options for the minor: (1) the Alan M. Crogan Youth Treatment and Education Center (YTEC), (2) Pathways to Success (Pathways), or (3) the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (DJJ). “YTEC ‘is a secure treatment facility, operating using the same basic levels of promotion of a high school campus.’ Pathways is ‘a secured treatment environment with a four-tiered school campus model resembling’ the YTEC. Regarding sexual behavior treatment at Pathways, the probation officer noted that ‘a modified version of the Department of Juvenile Justice’s (DJJ) program was developed’ and that the ‘youth do not have to register as a sex offender.’” The probation officer also pointed out that “[o]n June 30, 2021, DJJ will cease accepting youth into the program who were not ordered prior to that date, with a final closure of their facility in 2023” and that youths “must register as sex offenders” if placed in the DJJ program. The probation officer ultimately recommended that minor be placed in the Pathways program.
The parties then disputed whether T.O. would be required to register if placed in the Pathways Program. The sole disputed issue was whether the commitment to a local secure facility required sex offender registration following Senate Bill No. 823 (Senate Bill 823), which codified the plan to close the DJJ within the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation and establish local programs. Ultimately, the Court denied the People’s request to require T.O. to register, noting that the Senate Bill 823 was silent on the issue of registration. The Court concluded that that as the law stands, if the minor is not committed to the custody of the Department of Corrections, they cannot be ordered to register.
On July 26, 2021, pursuant to a negotiated agreement, T.O. admitted to rape of a child under 14 years of age. The juvenile court thereafter declared T.O. a ward of the Court, dismissed the remaining allegation in the petition and place him in the Pathways program. The court declined to impose a sexual registration requirement.
On appeal, the People argue that the juvenile court erred in refusing to impose mandatory sex offense registration. Specifically, the People argue that the Court misconstrued the legislative intent of the relevant statute, ignored the presumption against a repeal by implication, and the application of the statute violates the equal protection clause because in-state juveniles are treated differently than out-of-state juveniles with respect to registration.
Holding: The Court of Appeals rejected the People’s arguments and affirmed the judgment of the lower court. In doing so, the Court held, inter alia, that the juvenile court lacked the authority to impose sex offense registration requirements on juvenile whose disposition did not include commitment to DJJ based on the plain language of the relevant statute, rejected the People’s claim of a repeal by implication, and concluded that juveniles adjudicated wards of court for sex offenses and placed in out of state facilities that were equivalent to DJJ were not similarly situated to juveniles committed to in-state local program alternatives to DJJ, for the purpose of equal protection.