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Name: People v. Leonard
Case #: D070980
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 09/13/2017
Summary

Conviction for reckless driving while evading a peace officer does not require evidence that the defendant was personally assessed traffic violation points. A police officer saw Leonard speeding on the highway and pursued him into a residential zone, where Leonard ran several stop signs, exceeded the speed limit, and crossed the double yellow line separating him from oncoming traffic. A jury convicted Leonard of reckless driving while evading a peace officer (Veh. Code, § 2800.2, subd. (a)) and other offenses. He appealed. Held: Affirmed. Under section 2800.2, subdivision (a), the prosecution must prove that the pursued vehicle was “driven in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” This includes but is not limited to “driving while fleeing or attempting to elude a pursuing peace officer during which time either three or more violations that are assigned a traffic violation point count under Section 12810 occur, or damage to property occurs.” (Veh. Code, § 2800.2, subd. (b).) Here, the jury was instructed that “[c]rossing the solid double yellow line and failing to stop at a stop sign are each assigned a traffic violation point.” Leonard argued the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction because the prosecution did not show that he personally incurred traffic violation points as a result of his conduct. Applying principles of statutory interpretation, the court concluded the statute does not require evidence the defendant was personally assessed traffic violation points. The phrase “that are assigned a traffic violation point count under Section 12810” describes the type of violation that may support a finding of willful or wanton conduct. The assigned point count is the relevant factor, not whether points were actually assessed. As People v. Mutuma (2006) 144 Cal.App.4th 635, 641 explained in a similar context, “[t]hree point violations are willful and wanton disregard by definition, so there is nothing other than their existence for the jury to find.”

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D070980.PDF