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California "Reason to Know" Probation Condition Not Unconstitutionally Vague

The California Court of Appeals held that a probation condition prohibiting association with persons “you know, or reasonably should know” are drug users is not unconstitutionally vague.

In 2012, Jaime Mata Mendez was convicted of California drug charges and placed on probation. His conditions prohibited him from associating with individuals he knew, or had reason to know, are drug users.

Defense counsel objected, arguing that the "reason to know" language was unconstitutionally vague. He did not argue that the conditions were unreasonable or unconstitutionally overbroad. The trial court overruled the objection.

The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the probation condition was not unconstitutionally vague.

Citing In re Sheena K, 40 Ca1.4th 875 (2007), the court observed that it is "well-established that a probation condition ‘must be sufficiently precise for the probationer to know what is required of him, and for the court to determine whether the condition has been violated,’ if it is to withstand a (constitutional) challenge on the ground of vagueness.” The court also agreed with Mendez that probation conditions must provide adequate guidance to probationers, and the elements of the violation must be sufficiently precise for the probationer to know what is required of him or her, especially when it involved constitutionally protected behavior.

Ultimately, however, the court found "no difficulty either with a probationer understanding what is required by" the association prohibition condition "or with a court determining whether such a condition has been violated." Therefore, the condition was not unconstitutionally vague. See: People v. Mendez, 221 Cal. App. 4th 1167 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. 2013), review denied.

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Related legal case

People v. Mendez