Tuesday, August 25, 2009

In Re A.I. (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 25, 2009)

Sometimes concepts like "fairness" and "equity" get lost in the shuffle. Not here.

Defendant (a juvenile) files a motion to suppress based on an illegal search. Since most of the prosecution's witnesses on this motion are the same on this motion and at trial, defendant agrees not to make them come back a second time. Instead, if defendant loses the suppression motion, the court will just proceed with the trial that same day, with the (few) other witnesses added at the end.

So the suppression motion proceeds, at the end of which the court denies the motion. So now it's time for the trial. But the defendant's eligible for deferred entry of judgment, so after losing the suppression motion, he says he'd like to plead guilty and get deferred entry. But the prosecutor says: "Sorry. You agreed to let the suppression witnesses count at trial, so the trial's technically already 'started,' which means you can't plead guilty and get deferred entry. If you hadn't been so generous, you could have gotten deferred entry after losing the suppression motion. But you didn't, so you can't." And the trial court agrees.

But not Justice Scotland. Who holds that "the minor's counsel deserves a pat on the back, not a stab in the back, for agreeing to a procedure intended to benefit the court and the prosecutor by avoiding repetitive testimony that would have unnecessarily burdened witnesses and used up precious juvenile court time." And reverses the judgment below, holding that the "trial" didn't start just because the defendant was willing to avoid the need for the witnesses to testify anew. In a decision that seems entirely right to me.

By contrast, wholly unrelated to the holding, I wanted to say that I found the defense in this case to be, well, downright silly. The minor's caught with 4.3 grams of marijuana, a digital scale, several dozen plastic baggies, and $512 in cash. His defense to the charge of possession for sale was that the marijuana was for his personal use -- that the scale was to "make sure the seller gave [him] the right amount"; the baggies were to "moderate how much [he] smoke[d]"; and the cash was the proceeds of a check.

Uh, dude. Thank God you pled guilty. Because I cannot think of a less persuasive story.

Fortunately, for you anyway, deferred entry of judgment it shall be. And I think that's by far the right call.