Thursday, February 19, 2009

Court of Appeal Holds Probation Condition Violates Right To Privacy

In People v. Murillo (here), the Court of Appeal held that a probation condition requiring the defendant to take "any and medication prescribed by her doctor" violated the probationer's right to privacy under the California Constitution. The defendant pleaded no contest to unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor. Defendant had an extensive history of substance abuse and was an alcoholic as well. The court found the medication requirement unconstitutionally vague, because it wasn't clear from the context whether it applied literally to all medication or just those related to her offense and/or medical history. It also found the requirement overbroad. Here's the heart of that ruling:

"Because it requires that defendant take “any and all” prescribed medication, [the medication requirement] compels her to waive her constitutional right to decline unwanted medication even if she has serious qualms due to its side-effects or differing medical opinions concerning its propriety. On its face, the medication requirement compels her to take medication prescribed for any purpose and is not narrowly tailored to an identifiable medical problem related to her offense or rehabilitation for which medication might be appropriate and necessary. Indeed, the court did not find that defendant suffers from a particular medical disorder, condition, or problem requiring medication, and the record contains no professional medical evidence to support such a finding. Moreover, although defendant reported a prior diagnosis of ADHD or bi-polar disorder, there is no midical evidence confirming that diagnosis; indicating that defendant continues to suffer from such disorders; or suggesting that because such disorders could interfere with her rehabilitation, she needs to take medication to control them.

Not only is the medication requirement not narrowly tailored, but also the record does not support a finding that the broad infringement of defendant’s constitutional right is reasonably necessary to achieve some medical purpose related to defendant’s offense or rehabilitative needs. There is no evidence that some medical disorder, condition, or problem caused or substantially contributed to defendant’s offense or that she would not have committed it had she been on medication. There is no evidence that defendant currently poses a risk of harm to herself or others or is at risk of some grave illness if she does not take medication. There is no evidence that defendant’s rehabilitation could be impaired or complicated unless she takes medication for some condition, disorder, or problem. And there is no evidence that defendant has ever resisted, declined, or forgotten to take medication.

In short, without any medically-informed basis for doing so, the court ordered defendant, under the threat of incarceration, to take any and all medication that her doctor might prescribe for any purpose whatsoever. That command unreasonably and unnecessarily infringes on defendant’s constitutional right of privacy and is therefore patently overbroad and unconstitutional."

Well done.

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