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Name: People v. Howard
Case #: S108353
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 01/27/2005

The crime of driving with willful disregard for safety while evading an officer (Veh. Code, sec. 2800.2) is not an inherently dangerous felony for purposes of the felony-murder law. After fleeing from police, the defendant struck a car and killed one of the occupants. The jury was instructed that “every person who unlawfully kills a human being during the commission of violation of California Vehicle Code section 2800.2, a felony inherently dangerous to human life, is guilty of the crime of murder.” The appellate court affirmed the conviction, but the California Supreme Court reversed. The element of wanton and willful disregard for human life under section 2800.2 can be established by proving that the defendant committed three traffic violations assigned a point count under the Vehicle Code; such traffic violations include a number which are clearly not inherently dangerous to human life. Thus, the trial court erred in instructing the jury to convict the defendant of murder if it found that he had killed the victim in the commission of a violation of section 2800.2.