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Name: People v. Chaffin
Case #: E046217
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 05/14/2009
Summary

For the purpose of Penal Code section 273a, subdivision (a) (child endangerment), the term “custody and control” requires proof of a willingness to assume duties correspondent to the role of a care giver as opposed to proof a familial relationship. A jury convicted appellant of domestic battery, child endangerment, and vandalism. On appeal, appellant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction for child endangerment. At trial, evidence was presented that during a visit to appellant’s residence, the child’s mother became involved in an argument with appellant who threw rocks at her car, shattering the window close to where the child was secured in his car seat. Section 273a, subdivision (a) relates to conduct by a person having the care or custody of a child that is likely to produce great bodily harm or death. The court affirmed the conviction, noting that appellant had the care and custody of the victim, because appellant had lived with the victim from the child’s birth until appellant moved to a different home; when the child’s mother worked, appellant provided care for the child; appellant was legally obligated to support the child; and appellant expected the child’s mother and the child to live with him, even though they did not. Under these circumstances appellant occupied the role of a caretaker to his son. For purposes of the child endangerment statute, the term “likely” does not have a technical legal meaning and so there is no sua sponte duty to define it. The court also held that the trial court was not required to instruct sua sponte on the term “likely” because, as used, the term has a plain and unambiguous meaning and, regardless, if there was error, it was harmless. Finally, the court rejected appellant’s claim that the trial court was required to instruct sua sponte that appellant had a right to reasonable force to eject a trespasser because such an instruction was not supported by the evidence.