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Name: People v. Czirban
Case #: H047748
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 08/17/2021
Summary

Defendant’s convictions for regulatory offenses upheld where the evidence supported a finding he had an employment relationship with his equipment operators. Czirban was convicted of regulatory offenses, including tax evasion and failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance, following a fatal accident involving his bulldozer, which had been assisting Cal Fire in suppressing a Monterey County wildfire. He was placed on probation. On appeal, he challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to prove he had an employment relationship with his equipment operators. He also argued the matter should be remanded to allow the trial court to reduce his probationary term under Assembly Bill No. 1950. Held: Affirmed; probation term reduced. The elements of three of the convictions require an employment relationship between the equipment operators and the defendant, rather than an independent contractor status. The question of worker status was reviewed under a sufficiency of the evidence standard because this case involved a criminal prosecution. Cases applying statutes created to protect employees have found “that the principal test of an employment relationship is whether the person to whom service is rendered has the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired,” along with a variety of other complex factors, such as the power to discharge the employee at will and the label placed on the relationship by the parties. The evidence showed Czirban had the right to control the manner and means of accomplishing the result desired. He owned the equipment, briefed the drivers prior to an operation, and had the primary responsibility for the safety of the equipment. This and other evidence supported the finding the equipment operators were his employees.

The reduction in the probation term for most felonies pursuant to AB 1950 applies retroactively to this case. When Czirban was sentenced in December 2019, former Penal Code section 1203.1, subdivision (a) provided for a three-year probationary term. “On January 1, 2021, Assembly Bill 1950 took effect and reduced the maximum probationary term for most felony offenses to two years.” This reduction in the probation term applies retroactively to Czirban’s case.