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Probation May Not Be Conditioned On Overly Broad Court Access Restrictions

A California Court of Appeal has concluded that a probation condition prohibiting a defendant from being within 500 feet of any courthouse is unconstitutionally overbroad.

Alejandro Perez pleaded guilty to second degree robbery after forcibly taking a $29 pair of pants from a person he believed had previously vandalized his brother’s property. The trial court placed him on 36 months of formal felony probation. Consistent with the probation officer’s report and the request of the prosecutor, the court imposed 36 probation terms and conditions, including one prohibiting Perez from attending any court hearing or being within 500 feet of any courthouse unless he is either a defendant or under subpoena there.

On appeal, the Court noted that while trial courts have broad discretion to impose conditions which foster rehabilitation and protect the public, nonetheless a condition prohibiting non-criminal conduct must be reasonably related either to the crime of conviction or to future criminality. Here, the 500-foot restriction on access to courts was neither reasonably related to Perez’s crime nor to the possibility of future criminality.
Additionally, it potentially infringed upon Perez’s constitutional right of access to the courts, as well as his First Amendment right of access to government complexes in which, aside from a courthouse, public agencies (such as a city council, tax collector, or health department) may also be located. See: People v. Perez, 176 Cal.App.4th 380, 97 Cal.Rptr.3d 632 (Ca. App. 2009).

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Related legal case

People v. Perez