Thursday, December 17, 2009

People v. Saleem (Cal. Ct. App. - Dec. 17, 2009)

What's "body armor"?

California makes it illegal to wear body armor if you're a serious violent felon. Which makes sense to me. Ethan Saleem's previously been convicted of voluntary manslaughter. He's pulled over at 3:00 a.m. in Wilmington wearing a flak jacket, in circumstances that make me fairly confident that he was likely up to no good. You don't wear a 10-pound flak jacket for the fit.

He's convicted at trial and sentenced to eight years. The Court of Appeal reverses, with Justice Aldrich dissenting. Justice Klein holds that, at least as applied to this case, the statute is void for vagueness because it doesn't provide sufficient notice regarding what counts as "body armor". A reasonable person, Justice Klein argues, could not tell whether a flak jacket (which, here, was of a type typically used to repel IED shrapnel) qualified under the statute, which has quite technical requirements. Hence the conviction is reversed.

Two quick points. One, it's an interesting fight between the majority and the dissent. Two, as a result of this opinion, I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Legislature amend -- and assuredly broaden -- the statute. After all, there aren't that many people out there who defend the Second Amendment right of murderers to wear body armor.