People v. Hall, S227193

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court (California)
Writing for the CourtCuéllar, J.
Citation213 Cal.Rptr.3d 561,388 P.3d 794,2 Cal.5th 494
Parties The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. LaQuincy HALL, Defendant and Appellant.
Docket NumberS227193
Decision Date09 February 2017

2 Cal.5th 494
388 P.3d 794
213 Cal.Rptr.3d 561

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
LaQuincy HALL, Defendant and Appellant.


Supreme Court of California

Filed February 9, 2017

Patrick McKenna, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for Defendant and Appellant.

213 Cal.Rptr.3d 563

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Assistant Attorney General, Laurence K. Sullivan, René A. Chacón, Nanette Winaker and Julia Y. Je, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Cuéllar, J.

2 Cal.5th 497

The terms of defendant's probation bar him from possessing firearms or illegal drugs. He contends that these conditions on his release are unconstitutionally vague on their face, because they do not explicitly define the state of mind, or mens rea, required to sustain a violation of probation. He requests modification of the conditions to convey explicitly that they apply only to knowing possession of the prohibited items. What we conclude is that the probation conditions already include an implicit requirement of knowing possession, and thus afford defendant fair notice of the conduct required of him. We therefore affirm the Court of Appeal.


Defendant LaQuincy Hall was convicted of possessing cocaine base for sale (

388 P.3d 796

Health & Saf. Code, § 11351.5 ) and placed on three years' probation. As modified by the Court of Appeal to conform to the oral pronouncement of sentence (

2 Cal.5th 498

People v. Mitchell (2001) 26 Cal.4th 181, 185, 109 Cal.Rptr.2d 303, 26 P.3d 1040 ), the conditions of probation provided that defendant "may not own, possess or have in [his] custody or control any handgun, rifle, shotgun or any firearm whatsoever or any weapon that can be concealed on [his] person," and that he "shall not use or possess or have in [his] custody or control any illegal drugs, narcotics, [or] narcotics paraphernalia without a prescription." Defendant offered no objection to either condition.

Defendant challenged these conditions as unconstitutionally vague for the first time on appeal. The Court of Appeal deemed this facial challenge cognizable as a question of law (In re Sheena K. (2007) 40 Cal.4th 875, 889, 55 Cal.Rptr.3d 716, 153 P.3d 282 (Sheena K. )), but rejected it on the merits. The appellate court considered whether the vagueness doctrine requires a probation condition to explicitly spell out the mens rea necessary to sustain a violation of the condition. It concluded that the firearms and narcotics conditions did not need to be modified to bar "knowing" possession "because the mens rea generally applicable to probation conditions precludes the finding of unwitting violations."

Other Courts of Appeal have taken a different view. (Compare People v. Moore (2012) 211 Cal.App.4th 1179, 1189, 150 Cal.Rptr.3d 437 [concluding that modification of a weapons condition to add an express knowledge requirement was "unnecessary"] with People v. Freitas (2009) 179 Cal.App.4th 747, 752, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 51 [finding it "appropriate" to modify the condition so as to bar defendant from "knowingly " possessing the prohibited items].) We granted review to resolve the conflict.


Penal Code section 1203.1 et seq. gives trial courts broad discretion to determine whether to grant an eligible defendant probation, and if so, what terms of probation will promote rehabilitation and protect public safety. (People v. Carbajal (1995) 10 Cal.4th 1114, 1120, 43 Cal.Rptr.2d 681, 899 P.2d 67.) A probation condition is valid under the statutory scheme if it relates to the crime for which the defendant was convicted, relates to other criminal conduct, or requires or forbids conduct that is reasonably related to future criminality. (

213 Cal.Rptr.3d 564

People v. Lent (1975) 15 Cal.3d 481, 486, 124 Cal.Rptr. 905, 541 P.2d 545.) Revocation of probation typically requires proof that the probation violation was willful. (People v. Leiva (2013) 56 Cal.4th 498, 517, 154 Cal.Rptr.3d 634, 297 P.3d 870 ; People v. Hartley (2016) 248 Cal.App.4th 620, 634, 203 Cal.Rptr.3d 770 [deeming this an "established principle"]; People v. Rodriguez (2014) 222 Cal.App.4th 578, 594, 166 Cal.Rptr.3d 187 ["well established"]; People v. Moore , supra , 211 Cal.App.4th at p. 1186, 150 Cal.Rptr.3d 437 ["settled"];

2 Cal.5th 499

People v. Patel (2011) 196 Cal.App.4th 956, 960, 126 Cal.Rptr.3d 855 ["a substantial uncontradicted body of case law"]; People v. Zaring (1992) 8 Cal.App.4th 362, 378–379, 10 Cal.Rptr.2d 263.)1

In the context of conditions barring the possession, custody, or control of firearms, illegal drugs, and related items, revocation requires knowledge. The unwitting possession of contraband does not sufficiently establish backsliding by the probationer, nor

388 P.3d 797

does it sufficiently threaten public safety, to merit revocation without regard to the probationer's state of mind. On the other hand, revocation can be justified where the probationer knows of the contraband's presence and its restricted character because of what possession in such circumstances is understood to convey about an individual's plans or potential for further criminal activity, the probability of success of such activity if attempted, and the risks associated with such activity. Requiring such knowledge before sustaining a violation of one of the probation conditions at issue here would be consistent with the state of mind implicitly required for conviction by statutes criminalizing possession of illegal drugs (People v. Martin (2001) 25 Cal.4th 1180, 1184, 108 Cal.Rptr.2d 599, 25 P.3d 1081 [unlawful possession of a controlled substance implicitly requires " ‘knowledge of its presence and of its restricted dangerous drug character’ "] ) or dangerous weapons (People v. King (2006) 38 Cal.4th 617, 623–626, 42 Cal.Rptr.3d 743, 133 P.3d 636 ). The analogy is not perfect; a trial court may properly bar a probationer from possessing items that are not themselves illicit but that are related to past or future criminality. But the statutes are otherwise sufficiently similar to probation conditions addressing possession, and reflect the importance of a defendant's knowledge as a relevant criterion in the analysis.

Accordingly, a probationer who has possession, custody, or control of contraband willfully violates probation where the probationer has knowledge of the contraband's presence and its restricted nature, regardless of whether the item is criminal

213 Cal.Rptr.3d 565

in itself, or merely related to criminality. And the Courts

2 Cal.5th 500

of Appeal have consistently so held. (E.g., In re Ana C. (2016) 2 Cal.App.5th 333, 344–349, 206 Cal.Rptr.3d 263 [conditions barring possession of alcohol, drugs and drug paraphernalia, or tobacco]; People v. Rodriguez , supra , 222 Cal.App.4th at pp. 590–593, 166 Cal.Rptr.3d 187 [conditions barring (1) possession of any firearm, dangerous weapon, or ammunition, and (2) use or possession of controlled substances, alcohol, or other intoxicants]; People v. Moore , supra , 211 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1186–1187, 150 Cal.Rptr.3d 437 [condition barring use or possession of firearms, knives, and other concealable weapons]; People v. Freitas , supra , 179 Cal.App.4th at pp. 750–751, 102 Cal.Rptr.3d 51 [conditions barring possession of guns, ammunition, and stolen property].)

The parties appear to be in agreement up to this point. Both sides recognize that defendant may not be deemed in violation of the firearms or narcotics conditions of probation if his possession or control of the prohibited items was unwitting. In other words, a probation violation can occur only if defendant knowingly owned or possessed these items or had them in his custody or control. Consequently, the issue presented here is not what state of mind is required to sustain a violation of probation, but the extent to which that state of mind must be expressly articulated in the probation condition itself to provide defendant with fair warning of what the condition requires. In defendant's view, the conditions at issue in this case are unconstitutionally vague and must be modified to state explicitly that knowing possession is required. The People respond that these conditions implicitly include a knowledge requirement already, rendering them sufficiently precise to afford defendant fair notice of what is prohibited.

Our analysis begins with the void-for-vagueness doctrine. This doctrine, which derives from the due process concept of fair warning, bars the government from enforcing a provision that "forbids or requires the doing of an act in terms so vague" that people of "common intelligence must necessarily guess at its meaning and differ as to its application." (Connally v. General Const. Co. (1926) 269 U.S. 385, 391, 46 S.Ct. 126, 70 L.Ed. 322 ; accord, Sheena K. , supra , 40 Cal.4th at...

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