Y.C. v. Superior Court

Decision Date08 November 2021
Docket NumberA162063
Citation286 Cal.Rptr.3d 436,72 Cal.App.5th 241
Parties Y.C., Petitioner, v. The SUPERIOR COURT OF SAN MATEO COUNTY, Respondent; The People, Real Party in Interest.
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals

Michelle May Peterson, Lana M. Kreidie, for petitioner.

Abigail Trillin, Executive Director, Legal Services for Children, San Francisco, Jesse Hahnel, Executive Director, National Center for Youth Law, Meredith Desautels, Staff Attorney, Youth Law Center, for amicus curiae on behalf of petitioner.

Rob Bonta, Attorney General of California, Matthew Rodriquez, Acting Attorney General of California, Lance E. Winters, Chief Deputy Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Seth K. Schalit, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, Eric D. Share, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, for real party in interest.


After being detained on assault and firearm charges, 17-year-old Y.C. agreed to participate in a mental health assessment conducted by a family therapist, pursuant to an established protocol of the Juvenile Services Division of the San Mateo County Probation Department. The therapist provided a summary of her interview to the probation department, which included the summary in a report provided to the juvenile court at Y.C.’s detention hearings. In this writ proceeding, Y.C. contends the disclosure of the assessment interview to the probation department and juvenile court, and its use at his detention hearings, violated his constitutional right against self-incrimination and his right to counsel, as well as various privacy rights and privileges.

Because, during the pendency of this writ proceeding, Y.C. entered a change of plea and was released from detention, we dismiss his petition as moot to the extent it seeks relief relating to the detention order or to evidence considered at the detention hearings. In all other respects, we deny the petition.

A. The Charges

On November 10, 2020, the juvenile court issued an arrest warrant for Y.C., then 17 years old. On the same day, the People filed a wardship petition charging Y.C. with three felonies: assault with a firearm ( Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(2) ); carrying a loaded firearm ( Pen. Code, § 25850, subd. (c)(4) ); and possession of a firearm by a minor ( Pen. Code, § 29610 ). The first count included a firearm-use enhancement ( Pen. Code, § 12022.5, subd. (a) ). According to the detention report, Y.C. was alleged to have shot a suspected rival gang member in the leg.

Arrested on November 11, 2020, Y.C. was taken to the Juvenile Assessment Center (Assessment Center), where he met with a probation officer and invoked his rights under Miranda v. Arizona (1966) 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694. The probation officer spoke to Y.C.’s mother, who told the probation officer she had been concerned with Y.C.’s behavior. Y.C.’s mother reported that several months earlier, she had approached the Burlingame Police Department for assistance controlling Y.C.’s behavior. The mother indicated to police that she had noticed a " ‘black flat thing, that is part of a gun’ " in the family home, reprimanded Y.C., and told him to get it out of the house.

B. The Assessment Center Interview

San Mateo County created its Assessment Center in response to the need for "comprehensive early intervention with at-risk first-time offenders." The Assessment Center is part of a collaborative effort of the San Mateo County Juvenile Justice Coordinating Council, which brings together the county's probation department, Behavioral Health and Recovery Services (BHRS) agency, sheriff's department, district attorney's office, private defender's office, and judges of the juvenile court.

As part of the Assessment Center program, a multidisciplinary team consisting of a probation officer, nurse practitioner, and psychiatric social worker or therapist makes an intake assessment of a minor taken into custody to determine the minor's risk to the community and whether he or she is in danger. Pursuant to this program, the probation officer referred Y.C. to Linda Johnson, a licensed marriage and family therapist with San Mateo County's BHRS team. The purpose of the referral was for Johnson to assess Y.C.’s needs, formulate a recommendation for a further mental health or substance abuse evaluation, and potentially suggest future treatment.

On November 12, Johnson contacted Y.C. by telephone. At the beginning of the call, Johnson informed Y.C. that he did not have to speak with her and that if he did, the interview would not be confidential and would be disclosed to the probation department and the court. Johnson also told Y.C. that if he chose not to participate, she would report that fact to the probation department and court. Y.C., without counsel, agreed to proceed with the interview.

Johnson spoke with Y.C. for approximately two hours. They did not discuss the charges against Y.C., and no reference to the circumstances leading to his arrest appears in the report Johnson submitted to the probation department. Johnson's report summarized the substance of the interview, discussing Y.C.’s physical and mental health history, including his history of substance abuse. The report described Y.C.’s educational and employment history, and his relationship with his family and friends. Johnson recommended a psychological evaluation to "aid the Court in determining an appropriate disposition and treatment plan" for Y.C. The probation department included Johnson's report in the detention report it submitted to the juvenile court.

C. The Detention Hearings

Counsel for Y.C. first appeared in juvenile court on November 13, 2020, for Y.C.’s initial detention hearing. Counsel objected to the court's consideration of Johnson's report, but the court overruled the objection and ordered continued detention for Y.C., determining detention was reasonably necessary for the protection of the person or property of another and that placement in Y.C.’s home was contrary to his welfare. ( Welf. & Inst. Code, § 636, subd. (a).)1 The record does not reflect the factual underpinnings of the court's findings.

The court invited Y.C.’s attorney to file a formal motion to suppress and seal Johnson's report, and scheduled a further hearing to reconsider detention. Counsel then filed a written motion, arguing that the statements Y.C. made to Johnson were obtained in violation of his constitutional rights to counsel and against self-incrimination, and that the inclusion of his statements in the detention report violated the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accuracy Act (HIPAA) and state "privacy rights." Y.C. requested that the court "order the statements excluded from the detention report and that they not be used against [Y.C.] by the government." He also requested that the court seal the detention report and direct the preparation of a new detention report without the inclusion of Johnson's interview with Y.C.

At the December 22, 2020 hearing on the motion, Y.C. called Johnson as witness. Johnson testified that her role with the BHRS team is to meet with minors upon their arrival at the Assessment Center "to gather a biopsychosocial history so that we can determine the needs for this youth and their families." Johnson explained, "The things that I look for are treatment issues, resources that they need, history of abuse or neglect. My goal is to help youth who potentially would fall through the cracks otherwise." Johnson said the probation department refers a minor to her for an assessment generally within 24 hours after the minor has first been detained. In most cases, the probation department informs Johnson of a minor's name and date of birth but provides no other details, including the reason for the minor's detention. For minors over 15 years old, Johnson did not contact counsel before conducting an assessment; nor did she inquire whether the probation department had contacted counsel. This was Assessment Center policy at the time of Y.C.’s detention although, as discussed below, that policy changed after an intervening change in state law.

Johnson meets with a minor alone2 ; the probation department does not participate. Johnson begins an assessment by introducing herself and informing the minor that she is to conduct an assessment in order to formulate a recommendation to the juvenile court regarding the need for a further mental health or substance abuse evaluation, and to make suggestions for future treatment. She reads a list of disclosures to the minor, including (1) that the information provided by the minor can and will be shared with the probation department and juvenile court, (2) that as a result of the assessment, the BHRS team "will formulate a recommendation to the Court regarding the need for further mental health or alcohol and other drug evaluation, and ... may make suggestions for future treatment," (3) that the minor may refuse to participate in the assessment, but any refusal must be made known to the probation department and juvenile court; and (4) that the minor may change his mind about participating at any time and refuse to answer specific questions. Johnson does not read a minor his Miranda rights and is not informed by the probation department whether the minor has previously invoked his Miranda rights.

If a minor chooses to participate, Johnson's interview covers a wide range of categories, including education, family, social history, mental health, physical health, abuse, neglect, trauma history, and alcohol and drug history. Johnson does not ask about the nature of the charged crimes and, if a minor attempts to speak about the charges, Johnson tells the minor to stop.

After interviewing the minor, Johnson formulates a working clinical interpretation that can lead to a provisional diagnosis and additional treatment. She also prepares a written summary of her assessment and...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT