Thursday, August 06, 2009

People v. Perez (Cal. Ct. App. - Aug. 4, 2009)

Here's a classic case of an appeal to which I'd have stipulated error.

Alejandro Perez forcibly took a $29 pair of pants from someone else (the victim wasn't wearing them; he had just bought them). He's convicted of second degree robbery. Fair enough.

Perez isn't a gang member but he has previously "tagged" places and is friends with a couple of gang members. So as a condition of probation, Perez is precluded from associating with gang members, be near gang activities, wear gang colors, associate with taggers, etc. Again: I'm fine with all that.

Here's the thing: Perez is also ordered not to "attend any court hearing or be within 500 feet of any Court in which [he] is neither a defendant nor under subpoena." What?! Where the heck does that come from?! He's never threatened a witness or trespassed on Court property or done anything to justify this condition. And we're talking about constitutionally protected rights here; the right to attend trials, to voluntarily testify, to file civil actions, etc. Not to mention the right to go to a county law library (which are often at or near the courthouse), attend a city council meeting (ditto), etc. This just seems a flatly and clearly impermissible condition of probation. And yet we spend time, effort and money -- on both the Attorney General's side as well as on the public defender's side and in the Court of Appeal -- to litigate and attempt to defend this clearly invalid provision.

Confessing error is a good thing -- indeed, often a very good thing -- on occasion. This was one of those times.

Even though the Court of Appeal does the right thing, I'm disappointed that it had to go this far.