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Name: In re Amanda A.
Case #: A144797
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 11/20/2015

Where minor probationer expressed intent to disobey future, but imminent, order of probation officer, she did not “resist or obstruct a peace officer” (Pen. Code, § 148, subd. (a)(1)). The minor had a history of arrests and running away from placements. Several delinquency petitions had been filed against her (Welf. & Inst. Code, § 602). In February 2015, the minor was declared a ward, placed on probation, and held at juvenile hall pending placement in a group home. The probation officer filed a notice of probation violation because, when she told the minor that group home staff were on their way to pick her up, the minor said she was going to refuse to go. Based on this conduct, the district attorney also filed a section 602 petition alleging misdemeanor obstructing a peace officer (Pen. Code, § 148). The juvenile court sustained the probation violation and the section 602 petition. The minor challenged the sufficiency of the evidence on appeal. Held: Reversed. The legal elements of a section 148, subdivision (a)(1) offense require the defendant to willfully resist, delay, or obstruct a peace officer who is engaged in the performance of her duties, where the defendant knew or reasonably should have known the officer was performing her duties. The offense is most often applied to physical acts of the defendant, but is not limited to nonverbal conduct. The point at which the minor stated she would not go with the group home staff concerned a future, albeit imminent, situation. This is a step removed from disobeying a direct and immediate order. The distinction is important because there is no way to know whether the minor would have refused to get into the vehicle when it arrived. Thus, the minor’s refusal did not actually obstruct or delay the officer’s performance of her duties, although it threatened to do so in the future. This was insufficient to satisfy the elements of section 148, subdivision (a).

The juvenile court did not abuse its discretion in terminating the minor’s status as a Welfare and Institutions Code section 300 dependent and adjudging her a ward under section 602. While one of the minor’s section 602 petitions was pending, an assessment under Welfare and Institutions Code section 241.1 was conducted and it was determined the minor could best be served under section 300 (dependency). The pending section 602 (delinquency) petition was dismissed. However, after the minor again ran away from placement, the People refiled the section 602 petition and the court found the case should proceed under section 602. On appeal, the minor argued that the juvenile court abused its discretion in terminating her status as a dependent under section 300 and adjudging her a ward under section 602. The Court of Appeal disagreed. As a general rule, a minor who qualifies as both a dependent and a ward of the juvenile court may not be both. The juvenile court considered on several occasions the question of which system the case should proceed under. The minor claimed the trial court placed too much emphasis on her substance abuse and too little on her physical abuse and sexual exploitation in deciding her case should proceed under section 602. However, the court referred the minor’s case for multiple section 241.1 assessments, and the most recent assessments recommended proceeding under section 602. The court’s comments reflected it did consider the minor’s traumatic history and its conclusion the minor was in need of services available only in the section 602 system was “inescapable.”