Ex Post Facto Principles In Juvenile Proceedings

In In re Gault (1967) 387 U.S. 1, 30-31 [87 S. Ct. 1428, 1445, 18 L. Ed. 2d 527], the United States Supreme Court held that the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment afforded certain rights to minors, including the right to adequate notice, the right to counsel, the privilege against self-incrimination, and the right of confrontation. Also, in In re Winship (1970) 397 U.S. 358, 364-368 [90 S. Ct. 1068, 1072-1075, 25 L. Ed. 2d 368], the court held that due process requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt at the adjudicatory phase of juvenile proceedings. Further, in Breed v. Jones (1975) 421 U.S. 519, 528-530 [95 S. Ct. 1779, 1785-1786, 44 L. Ed. 2d 346], the court emphasized that while juvenile cases do involve considerations that distinguish them from adult criminal cases, they are nevertheless "essentially criminal" proceedings to which constitutional guarantees associated with criminal prosecutions apply. The court noted that a delinquency proceeding where the issue is whether the child will be subjected to a loss of liberty for years is comparable to a felony prosecution. (Id. at p. 530 [95 S. Ct. at p. 1786].) The Breed court therefore held that double jeopardy protections attached to the adjudication phase of a juvenile proceeding. (Ibid.) In Carmell v. Texas (2000), the majority emphasized that changing the number of elements (or findings) required to convict, or reducing the amount of evidence required to convict, are examples of instances where "the government refuses, after the fact, to play by its own rules, altering them in a way that is advantageous only to the State, to facilitate an easier conviction." (Carmell v. Texas, supra, 529 U.S. at p. 514 [120 S. Ct. at p. 1623] [Rptr. of Decisions Syllabus; not part of opn.].) The court then stated "there is plainly a fundamental fairness interest, even apart from any claim of reliance or notice, in having the government abide by the rules of law it establishes to govern the circumstances under which it can deprive a person of his or her liberty or life." (Id. at p. 533 [120 S. Ct. at p. 1633].) In finding that the fourth category of laws, namely, those that alter legal rules of evidence and receive less evidence than previously required for conviction, violates ex post facto principles, the majority in Carmell concluded by noting that " ' "the escape of one delinquent can never produce so much harm to the community, as may arise from the infraction of [the ex post facto clause] upon which the purity of public justice, and the existence of civil liberty, essentially depend." ' " (Id. at p. 553 [120 S. Ct. at p. 1643].) We conclude that the fundamental fairness interest protected by ex post facto principles mandates their application to juvenile proceedings which can indeed lead to the loss of liberty for years. We thus follow the reasoning of Breed, Gault, and Winship, in determining that ex post facto principles are applicable to juvenile proceedings. Our ruling is also consistent with other California cases that have previously found ex post facto prohibitions applicable to juvenile proceedings. (See In re Dennis C. (1980) 104 Cal. App. 3d 16, 20-22 [163 Cal. Rptr. 496]; In re Valenzuela (1969) 275 Cal. App. 2d 483, 486-488 [79 Cal. Rptr. 760].)