' Kelsey McQuilkin | MTTLR

In re Ricardo P. and the Privacy Rights of Probationers: An Incomplete Resolution

Should a probationer be forced to submit to warrantless searches of their electronic devices at any time, including being forced to provide all electronic passwords to a probation officer to allow remote and continuous monitoring? In its recent decision in In re Ricardo P., the California Supreme Court grappled with this question as it related to juvenile probationer Ricardo P. After admitting to two counts of felony burglary, the minor was placed on probation; “[o]ne of the probation conditions requires Ricardo to ‘[s]ubmit…electronics including passwords under [his] control to search by Probation Officer or peace office[r] with or without a search warrant at any time of day or night.’” Ricardo challenged the condition as both constitutionally overbroad and unreasonable under People v. Lent, a California Supreme Court case setting out a three-prong test which, if satisfied, invalidates a probation condition as unreasonable. On appeal neither party disputed that the first two prongs were satisfied and only the third prong, which looks at whether the condition is reasonably related to future criminality, was at issue. The Court ultimately found that for Ricardo, the electronic search condition was not reasonably related to future criminality, the third prong of Lent was thus satisfied, and the condition was therefore invalid. In so holding, the Court explained that an analysis of the third prong of Lent required weighing an interest in effective supervision with the burden on a probationer. Writing for the majority, Justice Liu discussed the deep privacy right implications of such a probation condition, and the significant burden that imposing the condition would place on a probationer. In rejecting the California Attorney...