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Name: People v. Lazarevich
Case #: H026467
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 6 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/18/2004
Subsequent History: Rev. den. 2/23/05
Summary

The state of California may assert jurisdiction over a parent who violated a state custody order by taking the children to a foreign country. The defendant was convicted in California of two counts of withholding a minor child and maliciously depriving the lawful custodian of her right to custody, in violation of Penal Code section 278.5. The defendant and his wife were divorced in California. Following a scheduled visit in 1989, he failed to return the children to their mother in Los Angeles as agreed, and instead took them to Yugoslavia where they remained until the children were evacuated prior to the Kosovo War in 1995. His sole contention on appeal was that California lacked jurisdiction over him. He argued that international law and federal due process precluded California from trying him for conduct that occurred exclusively in a foreign country, and that the prosecution interfered with the authority of the federal government to conduct international affairs. The Court of Appeal rejected each of these challenges, finding that California had subject matter jurisdiction over the defendant pursuant to former Penal Code section 279, which established a broad jurisdictional base in child abduction cases. The court found that California’s exercise of jurisdiction was reasonable and thus did not violate either international law or federal due process, and found his argument regarding violation of federal sovereignty to be without merit.