IN RE: BEAU D.

Reset A A Font size: Print

Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 3, California.

IN RE: BEAU D., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. BEAU D., Defendant and Appellant.

No. G017408.

Decided: April 02, 1996

Wendy Cathrine Forward, Los Angeles, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant. Daniel E. Lungren, Attorney General, George Williamson, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gary W. Schons, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Keith I. Motley and Sara Gros–Cloren, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

Beau D. appeals the judgment making him a ward of the court based on sustained charges he gave false information to a police officer, carried a loaded weapon in a vehicle, and was a minor in possession of a gun.   He contends the trial court violated his right to a speedy trial by keeping him in custody after continuing the trial 1 beyond the statutorily imposed time limit.   We affirm.

Beau was arrested for giving the false name Jamal Walker after he interfered with a police officer.   About three weeks later, a private security officer, Patrick Regan, stopped a car in which Beau was riding at a shopping mall.   Regan saw Beau bend down and move around in the right front passenger seat.   Regan recovered a loaded gun from under the seat.

Beau was charged in two petitions with five counts, including the charges that were found true.   After he failed to appear for a pretrial settlement conference, he was remanded to custody and his trial was set for January 10, 1995.   On that day, he answered ready for trial, and the matter was trailed until January 12, the 15th and last day for the trial to begin.

On January 12, the prosecution moved for a continuance because a witness's child had died, and the court continued the trial until January 19 over Beau's objection, and refused to release him from custody.   On January 19, Beau moved to dismiss the petition on the ground the court violated his right to a speedy trial.   The court denied the motion and trial commenced.

Beau contends the court violated his statutory right to a speedy trial when it continued the trial over his objection.   He appears to concede the court has the power to continue the trial of a minor in custody, but argues it could not do so unless he was released from custody.

 Section 657 provides that trial for a minor in custody must be set within 15 court days of the order for the minor's detention.2  If trial is not held within the statutory period, the petition must be dismissed.   (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 1485(d); 3  see also People v. Superior Court (Jorge C.) (1990) 224 Cal.App.3d 1114, 1117–1118, 274 Cal.Rptr. 439.)   Nonetheless, a trial may be continued on a showing of good cause, both in the case of detained minors and those out of custody. (§ 682, subd. (a).) 4  The trial court found good cause to continue Beau's trial, and Beau does not contend otherwise.   Instead, he argues the legislative intent behind section 682, the mandate of California Rules of Court, rule 1486(a)(1), and In re Robin M. (1978) 21 Cal.3d 337, 146 Cal.Rptr. 352, 579 P.2d 1, all require the court release the minor as a condition of continuing the matter beyond the 15–day limit, unless the minor waives time.5

Beau cannot find solace in the legislative intent behind section 682.   The language allowing a continuance whether the minor is in or out of custody was added in 1992.   Although the Legislative Counsel's Digest says the purpose of the amendment was to “eliminate undue delays in the administration of justice in the juvenile courts,” that language dealt with the reason for making it urgency legislation, and was used in conjunction with the portion of the amendment that dealt with timely commencement of continued hearings.6  (Legis. Counsel's Dig. and § 2, Assem. Bill No. 2073, 1 Stats 1992 (Reg.Sess.) ch. 126, West's Cal.Legis. Service, p. 345.)

 Nothing in the legislation compels an inference the legislature intended a trial could never be continued, regardless of good cause, unless the minor was released from custody or waived time.   As the Attorney General points out, the focus of the legislation was on the prompt commencement of continued hearings, whether the minor was in custody or not.  (Sen. Com. on Assem. Bill No.2073 (1991–1992 Reg. Sess.);   Assem. Com. on Public Safety on Assem. Bill No. AB 2073 (1991–1992 Reg. Sess.);   Conc. in Sen. Amend. on Assem. Bill. No.2073 (1991–1992 Reg. Sess.).)   Requiring good cause and prompt commencement adequately protects the interests of in-custody minors in a speedy adjudication.7

 Beau urges his position is supported by language in rule 1486(a)(1), which deals with continuances:  “Absent a waiver of time, a child may not be detained beyond the statutory time limits.” 8  The language is somewhat ambiguous because it does not indicate whether “statutory time limits” refers to the 15 and 30 day periods stated in section 657, or to those periods plus the length of any continuance based on good cause.   To the extent it may refer to the former, it is inconsistent with the applicable statute, and we may ignore it.  (See In re Robin M., supra, 21 Cal.3d at p. 346, 146 Cal.Rptr. 352, 579 P.2d 1.)   Section 682 states a case may be continued even if the minor is in custody and contains no requirement of release.   As we have stated, nothing in the legislative history justifies reading such a requirement into it.

Nothing in In re Robin M., supra, 21 Cal.3d 337, 146 Cal.Rptr. 352, 579 P.2d 1 alters that conclusion.  Robin M. was decided before section 682 was amended and only addressed whether a prosecutor could extend a minor's pretrial commitment by dismissing the petition when he was unable to proceed and having the minor detained on a new petition.  (Id. at pp. 344–346, 146 Cal.Rptr. 352, 579 P.2d 1.)   The court held the minor must be released if trial is not held within the authorized limits.  (Id. at p. 347, 146 Cal.Rptr. 352, 579 P.2d 1.)   It did not deal with an extension of those limits by a good cause continuance.  “[C]ases are not authority for propositions not considered.”   (People v. Burnick (1975) 14 Cal.3d 306, 317, 121 Cal.Rptr. 488, 535 P.2d 352.)

The judgment is affirmed.

FOOTNOTES

1.   Juvenile court law refers to the adjudicatory proceedings as a jurisdictional hearing (Welf. & Inst.Code, §§ 701–702), but it is tantamount to a court trial.   All statutory references are to the Welfare and Institutions Code unless otherwise indicated.*   *   *

2.   Section 657, subdivision (a)(1) provides in relevant part:  “Upon the filing of the petition, the clerk of the juvenile court shall set the same for hearing within 30 days, except as follows:  [¶] (1) In the case of a minor detained in custody at the time of the filing of the petition, the petition must be set for hearing within 15 judicial days from the date of the order of the court directing such detention.”

3.   All further references to rules are to the California Rules of Court, unless otherwise noted.  Rule 1485(d) provides:  “Absent a continuance under rule 1486, when a jurisdictional hearing is not begun within the [applicable] time limits ․ the court shall order the petition dismissed.   This shall not bar the filing of another petition based on the same allegations as in the original petition, but the child shall not be detained.”

4.   The section reads in relevant part:  “(a) To continue any hearing relating to proceedings ․ regardless of the custody status of the minor, beyond the time limit within which the hearing is otherwise required to be heard, a written notice shall be filed ․ together with affidavits or declarations detailing specific facts showing good cause for the continuance. [¶] (b) A continuance shall be granted only upon a showing of good cause and only for that period of time shown to be necessary by the moving party at the hearing on the motion.   Neither stipulation of the parties nor convenience of the parties is, in and of itself, good cause.   Whenever any continuance is granted, the facts which require the continuance shall be entered into the minutes.”

5.   We construe Beau's argument this way because the alternate construction would be a claim that the continuance was proper, but the matter should be reversed simply because Beau was improperly detained during the trial proceedings.   Beau cites no authority for that proposition, and it would be at odds with the concept of reversible error.  (See People v. Cahill (1993) 5 Cal.4th 478, 487–493, 20 Cal.Rptr.2d 582, 853 P.2d 1037 [absent fundamental constitutional defects, prejudicial error is assessed based on its impact on the outcome];  see also People v. Johnson (1980) 26 Cal.3d 557, 574, 162 Cal.Rptr. 431, 606 P.2d 738 [reversal based on a speedy trial claim requires a showing of prejudice].)Surprisingly, Beau makes the statement “that this matter is rendered moot because he has already completed his custody time for the convictions sustained,” and the Attorney General appears to agree.   They suggest we should decide the matter anyway because the matter is of broad public interest and is likely to reoccur.  (See In re Robin M., supra, 21 Cal.3d at p. 341, fn. 6, 146 Cal.Rptr. 352, 579 P.2d 1 [court decided propriety of extending minor's custody by dismissing and refiling petition, even though minor was no longer in custody when the matter was decided];  see also In re Arias (1986) 42 Cal.3d 667, 673, fn. 1, 230 Cal.Rptr. 505, 725 P.2d 664.) But Beau's claim that the court should have dismissed the matter rather than continue it while he was still in custody is not rendered moot by his release from serving a probationary term.

6.   The statement is made in this context:  “Existing law establishes the procedure for continuing a hearing to adjudge a minor to be a ward of the court.  [¶] This bill would require a hearing so continued, regardless of the custody status of the minor, to commence on the date to which it was continued, except as specified.  [¶] The bill would declare that it is to take effect immediately as an urgency statute.”   Section 2 continues:  “This act is an urgency statute necessary for the immediate preservation of the public peace, health or safety․  The facts constituting the necessity are:  [¶] In order to eliminate undue delays in the administration of justice in the juvenile courts, it is necessary that this act take effect immediately.”The prompt commencement provision to which the legislative digest refers is now contained in subdivision (e):  “When any hearing is continued pursuant to this section, the hearing shall commence on the date to which it was continued or within seven days thereafter whenever the court is satisfied that good cause exists and the moving party will be prepared to proceed within that time.”

7.   At oral argument, Beau's counsel urged the concept of lenity requires we construe the statute in Beau's favor.   Generally, ambiguity in a criminal statute is resolved in favor of the defendant.  (People v. Davis (1981) 29 Cal.3d 814, 828, 176 Cal.Rptr. 521, 633 P.2d 186.)   However, this rule arises only where two reasonable interpretations of the same provision stand in relative equipoise.  (People v. Anderson (1987) 43 Cal.3d 1104, 1145–1146, 240 Cal.Rptr. 585, 742 P.2d 1306.)   By necessity, construction is required only when a statute is unclear in some respect.   Thus, a court should not be straitjacketed by the rule favoring lenity to the accused where the legislature has made its intent clear.   “Such overbroad reliance upon one principle of statutory construction would constitute an abdication of our responsibility․”  (People v. Jones (1988) 46 Cal.3d 585, 599–600, 250 Cal.Rptr. 635, 758 P.2d 1165.)

8.   Rule 1486 provides in relevant part:  “(a) [Request for continuance;  consent (§ 682) ] [¶] A continuance shall be granted only on a showing of good cause and only for the time shown to be necessary.   Stipulation between counsel or parties and convenience of parties are not in and of themselves good cause.  [¶] (1) In order to obtain a continuance, written notice with supporting documents shall be filed and served on all parties at least two court days prior to the date set for the hearing, unless the court finds good cause for failure to comply with these requirements.   Absent a waiver of time, a child may not be detained beyond the statutory time limits.  [¶] (2) The court shall state in its order the facts requiring any continuance that is granted.  [¶] (3) If the child is represented by counsel and no objection is made to an order setting or continuing the jurisdictional hearing beyond the time limits of rule 1485, consent shall be implied.”  (Italics omitted.)

WALLIN, Associate Justice.

SILLS, P.J., and SONENSHINE, J., concur.