In re M.H.Annotate this Case
Sixteen-year-old M.H. used his smartphone to surreptitiously record a fellow high school student, Matthew B., in a school bathroom stall while Matthew was either masturbating or jokingly pretending to do so. The video, taken inside the bathroom, but about 20 feet away from the bathroom stall, did not show Matthew's face, but did reveal his distinctive socks and shoes, which were visible in the gap between the stall wall and the floor. M.H. uploaded the 10-second video to Snapchat with the caption, "I think this dude is jacking off [sic]." M.H. intended the video to be funny and to get a laugh. But about two weeks later, Matthew took his own life, stating in a suicide note, "I can't handle school anymore and I have no friends." The San Diego County District Attorney's Office filed a juvenile delinquency petition alleging M.H. engaged in an unauthorized invasion of privacy by means of a cell phone camera. The trial court found true the allegation that M.H. violated Penal Code section 647(j)(1). The trial court sentenced M.H. to probation on numerous conditions, including several restricting his use of social media. On appeal, M.H. argued: (1) no substantial evidence supported the juvenile court's finding that he had the requisite specific intent "to invade Matthew's privacy" as required by section 647(j)(1); (2) (raised for the first time on appeal) section 647(j)(1) incorporated by reference the elements of the tort of invasion of privacy, and assuming that to be true, he asserts there is a "newsworthy" defense that immunizes him from criminal liability in this case; and (3) (also for the first time on appeal) section 647(j)(1) violated his First Amendment rights. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed.