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Name: In re B.M.
Case #: B277076
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 04/20/2017

Juvenile court’s factual finding that a common butter knife was a deadly weapon was not wholly irreconcilable with the evidence. Appellant, a minor, attacked her sister with a metal butter knife while her sister was lying on her back in bed. The sister covered herself with a blanket for protection. Although she felt pressure from the knife through the blanket, she was not injured. The juvenile court sustained a Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition alleging appellant committed felony assault with a deadly weapon (Pen. Code, § 245, subd. (a)(1)). On appeal, appellant argued there was insufficient evidence that the knife she used was a deadly weapon. Held: Affirmed. “As used in section 245, subdivision (a)(1), a deadly weapon is any object, instrument, or weapon which is used in such a manner as to be capable of producing and likely to produce, death or great bodily injury.” (People v. Aguilar (1997) 16 Cal.4th 1023, 1028-1029 [internal quotations omitted].) Here, the juvenile court, sitting as the trier of fact, made a factual finding “that the six-inch metal butter knife could be used to slice or stab, even though it was not designed for such.” Based on the facts of the case, the juvenile court’s finding was not wholly irreconcilable with the evidence. When an object “is capable of being used in a ‘dangerous or deadly’ manner, and it may be fairly inferred from the evidence that its possessor intended on a particular occasion to use it as a weapon should the circumstances require, . . . its character as a ‘dangerous or deadly weapon’ may be thus established, at least for the purposes of that occasion.” (People v. McCoy (1944) 25 Cal.2d 177, 189.) It does not matter that the victim was able to fend off great bodily injury with her blanket or that appellant was not skilled at using the knife. The court disagreed with In re Brandon T. (2011) 191 Cal.App.4th 1491.

The trial court properly denied appellant’s motion to exclude her statements to a police officer after the attack, because appellant was not in custody during the interview. Appellant’s sister called 911 after the attack and an officer drove to her residence. The officer saw appellant outside and asked her if her name was B.M., and appellant said yes. The officer asked appellant to walk towards him and sit against the bumper of his marked patrol vehicle so he could talk to her about what happened, and they talked about the altercation. On appeal, appellant argued her constitutional rights were violated because the officer did not inform her of her Miranda rights before detaining and questioning her. The Court of Appeal disagreed. Miranda advisements are required only when a person is subjected to custodial interrogation. The test for Miranda custody is, would a reasonable person have felt he or she was not at liberty to terminate the interrogation and leave. Based on the totality of the circumstances, appellant was not subjected to custodial interrogation. She was not placed under arrest or in handcuffs, and there was only one officer present. The detention was not prolonged and occurred in a noncoercive atmosphere. The officer was not confrontational and did not use interrogation techniques to pressure appellant. Under these circumstances, a reasonable person in appellant’s situation would have believed she was free to leave at any time and terminate the interview.

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: