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Name: People v. Francis A.
Case #: A155082
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 1 DCA
Division: 2
Opinion Date: 09/25/2019
Summary

After a school resource officer placed his hand on a student’s back, the student did not commit battery on the officer when he lightly brushed the officer’s hand incidental to trying to move away. Minor cut class and was talking on a cell phone at school, both of which were rules violations. Minor was found by a campus aide in the library and was directed to go to the vice principal’s office. He indicated he would rather go to the principal’s office. As minor stood in the hallway outside the principal’s office, a school resource officer placed his hand on minor’s back to encourage him to go to the vice principal’s office, as directed. The minor turned away from the officer’s touch, incidentally brushing the officer’s hand. The juvenile court found true the Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 petition allegation that minor committed battery on a peace officer (Pen. Code, § 243, subd. (b)). Minor appealed, challenging the sufficiency of the evidence to support the juvenile court’s finding. Held: Reversed. Battery involves the willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon another person, where the touching is harmful or offensive. Battery is a general intent crime requiring only the intent to do the act that caused the harm. Here, the officer’s testimony failed to provide substantial evidence of battery as a result of minor acting willfully or unlawfully when he touched the officer. Minor’s brushing of the officer’s hand was incidental to his attempt to move away from the officer’s hand and it was not intentional. Even if it the touching was willful, it was not harmful or offensive. There was no testimony that minor touched the officer in a rude or angry way.

Insufficient evidence supported allegation that minor resisted a peace officer because there was no indication the officer was enforcing a disciplinary rule and the officer did not give minor any clear or direct orders. The juvenile court found true the section 602 petition allegation that minor resisted a peace officer (Pen. Code, § 148, subd. (a)(1)). The Court of Appeal also concluded there was insufficient evidence to support this finding. Section 148 imposes liability on a person who willfully resists, delays, or obstructs a peace officer in the discharge of the officer’s duty where the person knew or should have known that the other person was a peace officer in performance of his or her duties. Here, there was no evidence the officer was enforcing any disciplinary rules during his encounter with minor. The officer testified he “encouraged” the minor and requested him to go with the campus aide to the vice principal’s office. Because a request implies the right to refuse, minor could not have “resisted.” Given the officer’s failure to give minor any clear or direct order, substantial evidence did not support the juvenile court’s finding that minor had committed the offense of resisting an officer. Although minor tried to pull his arm away when the officer grabbed it, there was no substantial evidence that minor knew or reasonably should have known the officer was engaged in the performance of his duties as a peace officer. The court distinguished In re J.C. (2014) 228 Cal.App.4th 1394. [Editor’s Note: The Court of Appeal noted that it felt “compelled to observe that the officer’s arrest of [minor] and the People’s pursuit of these meritless charges against him were unjustified.”]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/A155082.PDF