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Name: Bonds v. Superior Court (2024) 99 Cal.App.5th 821
Case #: D082187
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 02/14/2024

When denying defendant’s motion for relief under the Racial Justice Act (RJA), the trial court erred by applying an incorrect legal standard that ignored that bias can be unconscious and implied as well as conscious and express. After a traffic stop, Bonds was charged with carrying a concealed firearm as a misdemeanor. He filed an RJA motion, arguing there are significant racial disparities in local policing, particularly with regard to the nature and frequency of traffic stops. At a hearing on the motion, Bonds offered the testimony of three expert witnesses and the police officer who stopped him. The officer claimed that the traffic stop could not be the product of racial bias because Bonds had a hoodie on his head and the officer could not tell what his race was. The trial court found the officer credible and denied the motion. Bonds ultimately filed a petition for writ of mandate in the Court of Appeal challenging the decision. Held: Petition granted. Penal Code section 745(c)(2) defines the defendant’s burden of proof on a RJA motion and expressly provides that “[t]he defendant does not need to prove intentional discrimination.” By focusing on whether the officer credibly testified that he did not know the occupants of Bonds’s car were Black when he initiated the traffic stop, the trial court applied the wrong legal standard to the motion. The officer’s claim of ignorance might indicate that he did not intend to discriminate on the basis of race, but implicit bias is, by definition, unintentional and unconscious. The trial court’s findings “fail to address the abundant evidence suggesting that the traffic stop may have been the product of unintended racial bias.” The court disagreed with the People that officers cannot exhibit any kind of bias because of a defendant’s race unless they are aware of that race. Implicit bias can appear at multiple levels and manifest itself in different ways. It was not necessary that the officer “had verified the occupants were Black before he stopped their vehicle, because he may well have subconsciously assumed they were based on their clothing, their presence in the neighborhood, or other subtle factors.” [Editor’s Note: The court also rejected the People’s challenges to Bonds’s statistical evidence. Section 745(c)(1), specifically provides that “reliable, statistical evidence, and aggregated data are admissible for the limited purpose of determining whether a violation of subdivision (a) has occurred.” The provision makes no distinction between the various subparts of subdivision (a), so there is no basis to say that such evidence is only admissible to prove certain types of violations but not others. The statistical evidence Bonds presented is admissible evidence the trial court is entitled to consider.]