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A Car Accident Can Result in a Conviction for Assault with a Deadly Weapon

People v. Brugman (Cal. Ct. App., Mar. 30, 2021, No. D076658) 2021 WL 1186143

 Summary: Brugman was convicted of  assault with a deadly weapon was based on his act crashing his vehicle into the car being driven by His former girlfriend as she tried to enter the driveway to her mother’s apartment complex. The jury was required to find that Brugman was “aware of the facts that would lead a reasonable person to realize that a battery would directly, naturally and probably result from his conduct.” (Williams, supra, 26 Cal.4th at p. 788, 111 Cal.Rptr.2d 114, 29 P.3d 197.) The jury was instructed with CALCRIM No. 875 that to find Brugman’s vehicle constituted a deadly weapon, it was required to find that Brugman’s vehicle was “used in such a way that it [was] capable of causing and likely to cause death or great bodily injury.” (See People v. Perez (2018) 4 Cal.5th 1055, 1065, 232 Cal.Rptr.3d 51, 416 P.3d 42 [“a ‘deadly weapon’ under section 245, subdivision (a)(1) is ‘ “any object, instrument, or weapon which is used in such a manner as to be capable of producing and likely to produce, death or great bodily injury,” ’ ” and “cases have recognized a vehicle as a deadly weapon based on the manner it was used”].)

The Court of Appeal fling conviction for assault with a deadly weapon is supported by substantial evidence.

Sufficiency of the evidence to support a charge of assault with a deadly weapon.

 In considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, “we review the entire record in the light most favorable to the judgment to determine whether it contains substantial evidence—that is, evidence that is reasonable, credible, and of solid value—from which a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt…. We presume every fact in support of the judgment the trier of fact could have reasonably deduced from the evidence…. If the circumstances reasonably justify the trier of fact’s findings, reversal of the judgment is not warranted simply because the circumstances might also reasonably be reconciled with a contrary finding…. ‘A reviewing court neither reweighs evidence nor reevaluates a witness’s credibility.’ ” (People v. Albillar (2010) 51 Cal.4th 47, 60, 119 Cal.Rptr.3d 415, 244 P.3d 1062, citations omitted.)

Brugman argued that the evidence was insufficient “for a rational juror to find beyond a reasonable doubt that at the time of the collision, [Brugman] committed an act he knew would directly and probably result in a battery upon [the victim.].” He argued that the deadly weapon requirement was not met because the evidence was insufficient for the jury to find “a willful use of his car in a manner known to likely and probably cause or produce death or great bodily injury.”

Here, video provided ample support for a reasonable juror to conclude that Brugman knowingly drove his car in a manner intended to produce a high-speed collision with the driver’s side of the victim’s  car. There is no indication in the video that Brugman was attempting to avoid the collision, and no indication that Brugman slowed down before striking the victim’s car.

Intentionally driving a vehicle into another vehicle at high speed provides substantial evidence to support a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon

The act of intentionally driving a vehicle into another vehicle at high speed provides substantial evidence to support a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon. (People v. Golde (2008) 163 Cal.App.4th 101, 110, 77 Cal.Rptr.3d 120 [substantial evidence supported conviction for assault when “there was evidence that defendant drove the car toward the victim and repositioned the car toward the victim as she tried to move out of its way”]; cf. People v. Oehmigen (2014) 232 Cal.App.4th 1, 5, 11, 181 Cal.Rptr.3d 569 [defendant was armed with a deadly weapon, in the form of his vehicle, when he drove directly at a car containing two police officers].)

The test is whether an objectively reasonable person with knowledge of these facts would appreciate that a batter would directly and probably result from his actions.

 Even if Brugman’s testimony that he did not intend to crash into C.’s car were believed, the record would still contain ample evidence to support a finding of assault with a deadly weapon. “[T]he test is whether an objectively reasonable person with knowledge of these facts would appreciate that an injurious collision, i.e., a battery, would directly and probably result from his actions.” (People v. Aznavoleh (2012) 210 Cal.App.4th 1181, 1189, 148 Cal.Rptr.3d 901 (Aznavoleh) [substantial evidence supported a conviction for assault with a deadly weapon when the defendant deliberately ran a red light while racing another vehicle on a busy city street, striking a car that was turning left at the intersection];

“[A] defendant need not intend to commit a battery, or even be subjectively aware of the risk that a battery might occur…. He need only be aware of what he is doing. The foreseeability of the consequences is judged by the objective ‘reasonable person’ standard.” (Aznavoleh, at p. 1190, 148 Cal.Rptr.3d 901, citation omitted.) Brugman was driving at a high rate of speed in the wrong lane of traffic, pursuing someone he knew would likely make a left turn into the apartment complex’s driveway. Even if Brugman did not intend to collide with the victim., a juror would have a solid basis to conclude that a reasonable person, under the circumstances, would realize that his conduct would directly and probably lead to a collision with the victim’s vehicle as it tried to enter the driveway. Indeed, because a collision did occur, it is reasonable for a finder of fact to conclude that a collision was the direct and probable result of Brugman’s conduct, regardless of whether he intended that result.

The Court that substantial evidence supports the conviction for

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