Attorney Support Services for San Diego County and the Temecula Valley.

Eviction Services

Iron Law Eviction Services for San Diego County and Riverside County.

In re I.C.

Filed 4/26/18 IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA In re I.C., a Person Coming Under the ) Juvenile Court Law. ) ____________________________________) ) ALAMEDA COUNTY SOCIAL ) SERVICES AGENCY, ) ) S229276 Plaintiff and Respondent, ) ) Ct.App. 1/2 A141143 v. ) ) Alameda County ALBERTO C., ) Super. Ct. No. SJ12019578 ) Objector and Appellant. ) ____________________________________) In a juvenile dependency proceeding, a child’s out-of-court reports of parental abuse are admissible in evidence regardless of whether the child is competent to testify in court. (In re Cindy L. (1997) 17 Cal.4th 15, 20 (Cindy L.); Welf. & Inst. Code, § 355.) But a juvenile court may not base its findings solely on the hearsay statements of a truth-incompetent child—that is, a child who may not testify because she is too young to separate truth from falsehood—unless the child’s statements bear “special indicia of reliability.” (In re Lucero L. (2000) 22 Cal.4th 1227, 1246, 1231 (plur. opn. of Mosk, J.); id. at pp. 1250–1251 (conc. opn. of Kennard, J.) (Lucero L.).) This requirement, rooted in the constitutional guarantee of due process, reflects a balance between the vital interests at the heart of the juvenile dependency system: It is designed to ensure that children are 1 protected from abuse while guarding against the risk that children will needlessly be separated from their parents on the basis of unreliable reports that are not subject to testing in court. We granted review to determine whether, under the rule established in Lucero L., certain uncorroborated hearsay statements made by a three-year-old child provided a sufficient basis to determine that she had been sexually abused by her father. Although the juvenile court found the statements to be unclear, confusing, not credible, and unreliable in significant respects, it ultimately concluded that the indicia of the statements’ reliability outweighed the indicia of unreliability. Based on the child’s statements, the juvenile court adjudged her a dependent of the court and ordered her father removed from the family home. The Court of Appeal, deferring to the juvenile court’s weighing analysis, affirmed. Mindful of the balance of interests underlying the Lucero L. rule, we conclude that the juvenile court erred and reverse the judgment. I. A. Under section 300 of the Welfare and Institutions Code (section 300), a court may exercise dependency jurisdiction over a child who has been abused, neglected, or is otherwise at risk of “serious physical harm” because of a parent’s or guardian’s abuse or inability to provide adequate supervision, care, or protection. (§ 300 [listing categories of children subject to dependency jurisdiction].) A dependency proceeding commences when a child welfare agency files a petition alleging that a child has been abused or otherwise comes within the court’s jurisdiction under section 300. (Id., §§ 325, 332.) The court then holds a hearing at which it may receive in evidence “[a]ny legally admissible evidence that is relevant to the circumstances or acts that are alleged to bring the minor within the jurisdiction of the juvenile court.” (Id., § …
Original document
Source: California Supreme Court