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People ex rel. Burns v. Wood (Cal. Ct. App., July 11, 2024, No. G061001) 2024 WL 3370029, at *1–2

Summary: The city of Fountain Valley (the City) sought to prohibit  Nancy Wood, an indigent homeless woman, from residing in the City’s Mile Square Park (the Park), which is near the hospital where she receives treatment for cancer and heart disease. The City had no homeless shelter at that time.

Procedural History: The City first filed a criminal complaint against Wood which entitled her to representation by appointed counsel. Wood conceded she was residing in the Park in violation of the City’s ordinance but argued necessity as a defense.

While that criminal case was pending, the same City attorneys who were prosecuting Wood criminally filed this civil lawsuit for nuisance against her. Because she was indigent and not entitled to appointed counsel, Wood defended herself against the same lawyers who were simultaneously prosecuting her criminally. The trial court was aware of this.

In the civil case, Wood again conceded her violation of the City’s ordinances and argued necessity as a defense. Due to COVID restrictions, all proceedings were conducted remotely.  Wood informed the court that she had not received the City’s trial exhibits, the court observed there was a record that the City had served her by mail (at a local soup kitchen). The court found Wood culpable for public nuisance because she was residing with her belongings in the Park, in violation of city ordinances. The court then waited five months before issuing its judgment prohibiting Wood from having her “illegal encampment”in the Park at any hour of the day, and from being in the Park during the hours it is closed to the public. Less than a week after the court entered its judgment, Wood was acquitted in the criminal nuisance case.

Wood argues the judgment should be reversed because the trial court failed to stay the civil action until after the City’s concurrent criminal prosecution of her was completed. Wood also argues the court erred by refusing to consider her evidence related to the same necessity defense she successfully relied on in the criminal case. Wood argues the City improperly sought punitive injunctive relief in this case, in violation of the constitutional double jeopardy prohibition.

The Court of appeal held that trial court abused its discretion in failing to stay this case pending the outcome of Wood’s criminal case and reversed the judgment and remand the case with directions that the trial court reconsider the propriety of the injunction.

The trial court ignored the evidence supporting Wood’s defense of necessity in deciding to issue the injunction in this case. The decision to issue an injunction in a civil case involves an exercise of the court’s equitable jurisdiction and the court is therefore obligated to consider all relevant evidence. The circumstances supporting Wood’s claimed need to reside in the Park are relevant considerations for the trial court on that issue.

Public Nuisance Law

Civil Code section 3479 defines a nuisance as: “Anything which is injurious to health, including, but not limited to, the illegal sale of controlled substances, or is indecent or offensive to the senses, or an obstruction to the free use of property, so as to interfere with the comfortable enjoyment of life or property.” A nuisance may be a public nuisance, a private nuisance, or both.  A nuisance is public when it “affects at the same time an entire community or neighborhood, or any considerable number of persons, although the extent of the annoyance or damage inflicted upon individuals may be unequal.” (Civ. Code, § 3480.)

To be considered a nuisance per se the object, substance, activity or circumstance at issue must be expressly declared to be a nuisance by its very existence by some applicable law.

Conduct that qualifies as a public nuisance may be punishable criminally and enjoined civilly pursuant to the court’s equitable jurisdiction. (Civ. Code, § 3491; People ex rel. Gallo v. Acuna (1997) 14 Cal.4th 1090, 1108-1109 [“Acts or conduct which qualify as public nuisances are enjoinable as civil wrongs or prosecutable as criminal misdemeanors”].)

The issuance of an injunction is an exercise of the court’s equitable authority. The court must balance the interests of the two sides in deciding whether to grant such relief.

If the court issues an injunction to abate a public nuisance and the defendant does not comply, the government can enforce the injunction through a criminal action for contempt of court. If the defendant is found guilty of willful contempt, the consequences can include punishment such as fines and incarceration. A civil injunction can also be a vehicle for imposing criminal sanctions.
The Court Abused Its Discretion by Failing to Stay this Case

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Nicholas NEEDHAM, Petitioner, v.The SUPERIOR COURT OF ORANGE COUNTY, Respondent; The People, Real Party in Interest. S276395; July 1, 2024; 2024 WL 3243077 (Cal.)

Summary: County district attorney filed petition to commit sex offender as a sexually violent predator (SVP). Offender filed motions to preclude People’s retained expert from testifying at trial. The Superior Court, Orange County, denied the motions. Offender filed petition for writ of mandate or prohibition to prevent People’s expert from conducting any further interviewing or testing and from testifying at trial. Fourth District Court of Appeal denied the petition. Supreme Court granted offender’s petition for review and transferred the matter to Court of Appeal with direction to issue order to show cause. Court of Appeal thereafter granted the writ petition and directed the trial court to exclude expert’s testimony. People’s petition for review was granted.

Holdings: The Supreme Court held that:

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. HAADI BOLOURCHI, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., June 28, 2024, No. A167289) 2024 WL 3218945, at *1

Summary: Under Vehicle Code section 23612, subdivision (a)(1)(B), “A person who drives a motor vehicle is deemed to have given his or her consent to chemical testing of his or her blood for the purpose of determining the drug content of his or her blood, if lawfully arrested for” driving while under the influence of a drug in violation of section 23152, subdivision (f). The issue held:  If, following a valid arrest for such an offense, a motorist refuses to cooperate in the taking of a blood test unless a warrant is first obtained the jury may at the motorist’s ensuing DUI trial draw an adverse inference of consciousness of guilt based on that refusal.

Here, a jury convicted Bolourchi of a DUI offense in violation of section 23152, subdivision (f), and bribing an executive officer. The trial court suspended imposition of sentence, placed Bolourchi on three years’ probation, and ordered a jail term of 180 days. On appeal, Bolourchi contends the DUI conviction should be reversed. He argues the court erred by instructing the jury with CALCRIM No. 2130, an instruction that states a defendant’s refusal to submit to a chemical test as required by California’s implied consent statute (§ 23612) may show consciousness of guilt.

People v. Meno (Cal. Ct. App., June 20, 2024, No. D081878) 2024 WL 3063112, at *1

Summary: Meno was convicted of two counts each of vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated with ordinary negligence (counts 1 and 2; Pen. Code § 191.5, subd. (b)), one count of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) causing bodily injury (counts 3; Veh. Code § 23153, subd. (a)), and one count of driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more causing injury (counts 4; Veh. Code § 23153, subd. (b)). The jury also found true that Meno inflicted great bodily injury upon two separate victims as to each of counts 3 and 4. At sentencing, the trial court found that the convictions on counts 3 and 4 were necessarily included offenses of counts 1 and 2. However, due to the associated enhancements, the potential sentence for counts 3 and 4 was greater than that for counts 1 and 2.

The People acknowledged that DUI causing injury was a “lesser” included offense to vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, with either gross or ordinary negligence, and that the convictions for both could not stand simultaneously. The People asked the trial court to vacate counts 1 and 2 and sentence Meno under counts 3 and 4, despite counts 3 and 4 being the necessarily included offenses, because counts 3 and 4 carried a longer potential sentence. Meno asserted that the trial court did not have such discretion and had to vacate the convictions in counts 3 and 4, as well as the attached great bodily injury enhancements.

People v. Rounds (Cal. Ct. App., June 5, 2024, No. G063593) 2024 WL 2842208, at *1–2

Summary: Rounds, Jr., challenged the trial court’s denial of his petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon. (Pen. Code, § 4852.01 et seq.). The trial court considered factors that were irrelevant to the statutory criteria for evaluating a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation, including the nature of the underlying crime, the unfairness to the victims of granting the petition, and Rounds’s failure to plead guilty to a more serious charge. The court did not address the relevant statutory factors and did consider Rounds’s character and conduct in the nearly 40 years following the crime.

The trial court’s abuse of discretion amounts to a miscarriage of justice. The Court of Appeal reversed and published this opinion to clarify the factors the trial court may consider when evaluating a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon.

DAVID AUDISH, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. DAVID MACIAS et al., Defendants and Respondents. (Cal. Ct. App., May 21, 2024, No. D081689) 2024 WL 2860272

Summary: Plaintiff Audish appealed a civil judgment after a jury verdict in an automobile collision case. The jury found Audish and defendant David  both operated their vehicles negligently and each party’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to Audish. The jury found Audish suffered $65,699.50 in damages, including $29,288.94 for past medical expenses, $3,620 for past non-economic losses, and $32,790.56 for future medical expenses, and it assigned each party 50 percent of the responsibility for these losses.

On appeal, Audish contends the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence that he would have Medicare medical insurance at the age of 65. He also argues the jury returned an impermissible compromise verdict and erred by failing to award him damages for future non-economic losses. The Court of Appeal rejected these claims and affirmed the judgment.

People v. Superior Court of Riverside County (Cal. Ct. App., May 30, 2024, No. D082865) 2024 WL 2761450, at *1

Summary: While under the influence of prescription painkillers, Chagolla led California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers on a 35-mile, high-speed chase that ended when Chagolla lost control of her vehicle, which crashed into the guardrail and came to rest, blocking the middle two lanes of traffic. Chagolla would not comply with CHP orders to exit her car. After 30 minutes, a CHP officer shot out one of the vehicle’s windows, and 10 minutes later, another officer extracted Chagolla from her car. About 45 minutes had elapsed since she crashed her vehicle. In custody, Chagolla seemed to be under the influence of some substance and was not very responsive. A subsequently performed blood test confirmed that Chagolla had ingested a large dose of oxycodone.

About 30 minutes after Chagolla’s vehicle came to rest in the middle of the I-10, a four-vehicle collision occurred about half a mile to a mile away from Chagolla’s vehicle. A tractor-trailer traveling five to 10 miles above the speed limit and whose driver was distracted looking for his sunglasses, hit another tractor-trailer, went out of control, hit a passenger vehicle, and then struck a second tractor-trailer and burst into flames, killing the driver of the last struck vehicle.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. TAKEYA LASHAY KOONTZY, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., May 23, 2024, No. A167703) 2024 WL 2350205

Summary: Koontzy (appellant) pled no contest to fleeing the scene of an injury accident (Veh. Code § 20001, subd. (a)) and was placed on probation with the condition that she pay victim restitution in an amount to be determined. Because of the victim’s delay in providing documentation of her damages and failure to appear on multiple dates set for restitution hearings, the trial court did not determine the amount of restitution before termination of appellant’s probation. More than two years post-termination, the court entered an order directing appellant to pay $86,306.12 in victim restitution.

Appellant contends the trial court was without authority to modify the amount of restitution owed to the victim following termination of probation. Appellant relies on People v. Martinez (2017) 2 Cal.5th 1093 (Martinez) to argue that the court’s jurisdiction to do so was not extended by Penal Code section 1202.46 because the restitution was not for losses incurred “as a result of the commission of a crime.” (§ 1202.4, subd. (a)(1).)  The case is distinguished from the decision in People v. McCune (2022) 81 Cal.App.5th 648, 651–652, review granted Oct. 26, 2022, S276303 (McCune), in which there was no dispute that the restitution was properly imposed under section 1202.4.

United States v. Anderson (9th Cir., May 2, 2024, No. 20-50345) 2024 WL 1920298

Warrantless searches by law enforcement for inventory purposes

Summary: Law enforcement may conduct warrantless inventory searches of impounded vehicles only if they are motivated by administrative purposes, and not solely by investigatory purposes. Here, an officer’s failure to comply with governing administrative procedures is relevant in assessing the officer’s motivation for conducting an inventory search.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. DAVID G. ARIAS, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., May 10, 2024, No. A164789) 2024 WL 2103781, at *1

Summary: Arias was tried for two counts of sexual abuse committed against J. Doe, a child under 14 years old. During the trial, the defense brought a Batson/Wheeler1 motion challenging the prosecutor’s exercise of a peremptory strike against a prospective juror who was a Black woman. The trial court ruled that a prima facie case of discrimination was established, and the  prosecutor gave three reasons for the strike. The court then denied the motion without any discussion, stating only that it did not “think the challenge was based on racial animus or bias.” The jury convicted Arias and he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court’s denial of the Batson/Wheeler motion was improper, because the prosecutor’s reasons for the strike do not withstand scrutiny. The first reason was that the juror would “empathize” more with defense experts than with a prosecution expert because her educational background was similar to that of the defense experts. But the prosecution expert’s educational background was essentially the same as the defense experts’. The second reason was that the juror had concerns about implicit bias and unfairness in the criminal justice system. A recent statute expressly renders such a reason presumptively invalid, the statute does not apply to this case because the jury was selected before its effective date. (Code Civ. Proc., § 231.7, subds. (e), (i).) But this reason, although facially race-neutral under then-governing law, did not independently justify the strike under the totality of the circumstances. The last reason was that the juror was “pretty opinionated” and might therefore be reluctant to deliberate. This concern was unlikely to have actually motivated the strike, however, because it was not applied to other potential jurors. Applying the Batson/Wheeler framework, the record lacks sufficient evidence on which the trial court could have reasonably relied to accept the prosecutor’s reasons for striking the juror without further explanation. The  error was structural, and the Court of Appeal reversed.

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