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Name: People v. Islas
Case #: B233087
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 10/18/2012

There was sufficient evidence of felony false imprisonment where gang members went into family’s home to hide from police. Appellants appealed the judgments following their conviction by jury of first-degree burglary with a person present and five counts of false imprisonment by violence, a felony. The jury found that each offense had been committed for the benefit of a street gang within the meaning of section 186.22, subdivision (b)(1). On appeal, appellants argued that the false imprisonment convictions had to be reduced to misdemeanors because the evidence did not establish violence or menace, and the burglary convictions also reversed since they were based on an entry with the intent to commit felony false imprisonment. The appellate court rejected the argument, finding sufficient evidence to support the conviction for felony false imprisonment. In order to avoid police when they arrived at an apartment building that was a gang “stronghold,” appellants climbed up a ventilation shaft and entered the bathroom of a studio apartment occupied by a mother and her four daughters. Although appellants had no weapons, did not touch the family and issued no express threat of harm, the evidence was sufficient to support the jury’s finding that the false imprisonment was effected by menace, i.e. the implied threat of harm. The appellants conduct while they were in the victim’s apartment, coupled with the display of their gang tattoos, constituted menace. The victim did not believe appellants when they told her that they did not want to hurt her and there was evidence that she feared the appellants would harm her or her family. Given the gang evidence, the jury could properly conclude appellants would take whatever action was necessary to avoid capture. However, the concurrent terms imposed on the false imprisonment counts should have been stayed pursuant to section 654.