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Name: People v. Iraheta
Case #: B249264
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 06/27/2014
Summary

Trial court properly declined to instruct on imperfect self-defense on the charge of shooting at an occupied vehicle (Pen. Code, § 246). Iraheta fired a single gunshot into a Honda vehicle and sped off. The bullet hit the driver of the vehicle, Orozco. Iraheta contended that he had shot Orozco after seeing that Orozco had a pistol in his hand. A jury found Iraheta guilty of shooting at an occupied vehicle in violation of section 246. Before sentencing, the trial court granted a motion for new trial based on its failure to instruct on imperfect self-defense, and the prosecutor appealed. Held: Trial court’s grant of a new trial motion reversed. Adopting the analysis in People v. Rodarte (2014) 223 Cal.App.4th 1158, the appellate court held that an imperfect self-defense instruction is inapplicable to the crime of shooting at an occupied motor vehicle, which is a general intent crime that requires proof that the defendant “willfully and maliciously” discharged a firearm at an occupied motor vehicle. The malice required for a violation of section 246 is the wish to vex, annoy, or injure another person, not the “malice aforethought” required to prove murder. The imperfect self-defense theory applies when a person actually believes he must defend himself from imminent danger of death or great bodily injury but the belief is unreasonable. This doctrine negates the malice aforethought element of murder, which is the awareness that one’s conduct does not conform to the expectations of society. In contrast, the malice element in section 246 connotes a knowing violation of societal norms and is likely to be present even when the person acts in reasonable self-defense. Because shooting at an occupied vehicle requires only the general concept of malice and not malice aforethought, an instruction on imperfect self-defense would be inappropriate.