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Name: People v. Castro
Case #: B182028
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 4
Opinion Date: 03/30/2006

Appellant attempted to get a 16-year old girl into his car by offering her rides and $10 to perform a sexual act. When she refused, he grabbed her and pulled her toward the car a few steps, before she ran away. He was convicted of felony false imprisonment and child molestation. On appeal, he argued that there was insufficient evidence of felony false imprisonment. In the alternative, he contended that the trial court erred by failing to instruct sua sponte on the lesser included offense of misdemeanor false imprisonment. The appellate court agreed that the trial court erred by failing to provide an instruction on misdemeanor false imprisonment. Using force to pull the victim towards his car was sufficient to establish force above that required for misdemeanor false imprisonment, so there was sufficient evidence to support the conviction. However, the court had a sua sponte duty to instruct on misdemeanor false imprisonment as well as the other lesser included offenses. The facts were sufficiently ambiguous that a conviction for misdemeanor false imprisonment might also have been justified, so the instructional error could not be deemed harmless and reversal was required.