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Name: People v. Manzo
Case #: S191400
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 03/08/2012

Penal Code section 246 applies where a person stands outside an occupied motor vehicle and shoots into it, even when the gun has crossed the plane of the vehicle. In addition to other crimes, appellant was convicted of a violation of Penal Code section 246. According to the evidence presented at trial, appellant stood outside the vehicle, aimed the gun at the occupants, and pulled the trigger, killing one passenger. The second passenger escaped death/injury when the gun misfired. At the time appellant pulled the trigger, the end of the gun was inside the vehicle. On appeal, appellant contended that the conviction for Penal Code section 246 could not stand because the statute specifies that the offense is committed by any person who wilfully discharges a firearm at an occupied vehicle and that any shooting that occurs when the firearm is inside the vehicle is not a shooting at but is one inside, which is not included in the statute. The appellate court reversed the conviction, reasoning that under the rule of lenity, section 246 must be construed as excluding the discharge from a firearm that has crossed the plane of an occupied vehicle. Applying rules of statutory construction, the Supreme Court found that the appellate court erred in invoking the rule of lenity. Because the definition of the word at in the statute does not definitively exclude appellant’s interpretation, the court looked to the legislative intent in enacting the statute. The court found that the avowed purpose of the statute, general public policy concerns, and logic favor an interpretation of the statute that recognizes a violation where the shooter is outside and fires at an occupied vehicle, regardless of whether the weapon breaks the plane of the vehicle.