California Welfare and Institutions Code (WIC) Section 355.1 - Interpretation

In In re John S. (2001) 88 Cal.App.4th 1140, the Department had relied upon section 355.1 in the trial court because the father was a registered sex offender. The father claimed that the presumption did not apply to him because he did not have custody of or provide care for his son. The trial court disagreed and applied the statutory presumption. The father presented no evidence and did not seek a continuance to do so. The trial court sustained the section 300 petition. (Id. at p. 1143.) On appeal, the father's only contention was that the trial court erred in concluding that section 355.1 applied to him because he was a noncustodial parent. the appellate court, relying upon the statute's legislative history, disagreed. (Id. at pp. 1144-1145.) The last paragraph of its opinion contains the language upon which Department now relies. It reads: "We emphasize that the presumption in the statute is not conclusive and affects only the burden of producing evidence. Appellant was free to present evidence that his status as a registered sex offender did not place the minor at substantial risk of abuse or neglect. Appellant did not do so, instead relying only upon the evidence in the social worker's report and reasonable inferences therefrom to oppose an adverse jurisdictional finding." (Id. at pp. 1145-1146.) In context, the italicized statement means only that the information in Department's report in that case was insufficient to defeat application of the presumption so that the father's failure to present contrary evidence required the appellate court to affirm the trial court's ruling.