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SANTA BARBARA � It was the right case for the right audience. With hundreds of students either in the audience or watching via live television on Tuesday, the California Supreme Court heard arguments to determine whether evidence gathered during illegal vehicle stops can be used at trial against juveniles who are on probation. Questions from the court left it unclear how the ruling would go, but it definitely appeared Chief Justice Ronald George and Justice Joyce Kennard felt allowing the admission of such evidence could encourage police misconduct. George asked both Deputy Attorney General Ronald Niver and Los Angeles County Deputy District Attorney Brentford Ferreira why officers � if they can search first and check if a juvenile is under a search condition later � wouldn’t indiscriminately stop groups of kids in hope of finding illegal activity. “Why not see if you get lucky?” George asked. The court’s special session in Santa Barbara was part of a yearly effort to hold arguments in front of high school students who otherwise might never see the justices in action. The court, which hears three more cases today, hopes to educate kids about the court system and possibly inspire them to pursue legal careers. Tuesday’s juvenile probation case goes back to April 2004, when Fairfield police officer Darren Moody pulled over a minor driver, identified in court records only as Jaime P., for failing to signal when he made a turn. Unfortunately for the boy, he was on probation under a condition that he consent to warrantless searches. During the stop, officer Moody noticed a box of ammunition in the car and later found a loaded .44-caliber handgun beneath the rear passenger seat. The minor was charged with driving without a license and carrying a loaded firearm. A Solano County Juvenile Court judge, relying on Jaime P.’s probation conditions, found the search legal, even though prosecutors conceded the boy’s failure to signal had not been illegal because no other vehicle was affected. The judge allowed the evidence admitted at trial. Lawyers for Jaime P. had argued the evidence shouldn’t be admitted because the officer wasn’t aware of the probation search requirement, and had no valid reason for making the traffic stop. Last year, San Francisco’s First District Court of Appeal affirmed the trial judge, pointing to a 1994 California Supreme Court ruling that concluded juvenile probationers under consent-to-search conditions have no reasonable expectation of privacy. In re Tyrell J., 8 Cal.4th 68, held that allowing searches would discourage future misconduct, and promote the special needs of the juvenile probation system. During Tuesday’s argument, however, Jaime P.’s lawyer, Newport Beach solo practitioner Diana Teran, argued Tyrell J. had been invalidated by a subsequent opinion from the high court in 2003. In People v. Sanders, 31 Cal.4th 318, she noted, the Supreme Court outlawed searches of adult parolees who had consent conditions unknown to officers. Such searches, the court ruled, could legitimize unlawful police conduct. Teran argued that ruling should extend to juveniles. Kennard and George seized on that issue. If such searches could put adults at risk with police officers, they argued, why isn’t the same true with minors? Deputy AG Niver said George’s hypothetical question assumed officers would be intent on conducting arbitrary or harassing searches. He also argued that the officer had a legitimate reason for pulling Jaime P. over. Justice Ming Chin asked Niver whether law enforcement agencies could use modern technology to let officers on the street know if they were dealing with someone who is under a search condition. “Once you’ve identified the minor,” Chin asked, “what’s the obstacle to finding out whether the minor has a search condition?” When Niver said that would “take time,” Chin wanted to know why. Clearly unable to answer the question, Niver said, “Your honor, I’m technologically challenged.” The crowd laughed. Justice Kathryn Mickle Werdegar, meanwhile, seemed inclined to side with Niver and Ferreira, the L.A. prosecutor. She wondered why a “reasonable good-faith search” by an officer who happens to be unaware of a search condition would violate a juvenile’s expectation of privacy. Werdegar appeared to be of the opinion that search conditions for juveniles � for whom the aim is rehabilitation � differ from those of adults, for whom the goal is punishment.

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