Tuesday, February 26, 2013

People v. Howard case brief

People v. Howard case brief summary
34 Cal. 4th 1129

PROCEDURAL POSTURE: Defendant appealed a judgment from the Court of Appeal, Fifth Appellate District (California), which affirmed defendant's conviction for murder under Cal. Penal Code § 187.

OVERVIEW: While fleeing from a police officer at high speed, defendant ran a red light, causing a fatal collision. During the chase, defendant also ran stop signs and drove on the wrong side of the road. The trial court instructed the jury to find defendant guilty of murder if it found that the death occurred during defendant's commission of a violation of Cal. Veh. Code § 2800.2, which prohibited driving in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property while fleeing from a pursuing police officer.

The court, in reversing, held that the second degree felony-murder rule, which applied to felonies that were inherently dangerous to life, did not apply to violations of § 2800.2 because it was possible to commit such violations without endangering others' lives.

Section 2800.2(b) broadly defined "willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property," as used in § 2800.2(a), to include any flight from an officer during which a driver committed three traffic violations that were assigned a point count under Cal. Veh. Code § 12810, or which resulted in damage to property. Some traffic violations with a point count could be committed without endangering human life.

OUTCOME: The court reversed and remanded to the court of appeal for further proceedings.
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