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Name: People v. Nguyen
Case #: G040600
District 4 DCA
Division: 3
Opinion Date: 05/20/2010

Penal Code section 784.7 permits joining different sex offenses from different counties, not only identical offenses. Appellant argued the trial court should not have allowed a lewd act on a child which occurred in San Bernardino County to be tried with a forcible rape charge from Orange County. Appellant claimed Penal Code section 784.7, allowing joinder of sex crimes from different counties, permits joinder only when the offenses are predicated on the same statute. The court looked to the legislative history of the statute because it found the language of the statute was ambiguous. The intent was to protect victims of sex crimes from having to testify in multiple trials in different counties, as Evidence Code section 1108 would likely ensure. Permitting joinder of non-identical sex crimes is consistent with that intent. Additionally, section 784.7, contemplates a hearing under section 954 (intra-jurisdictional joinder). That statute, in turn, allows joinder of offenses of the same class of crimes. Since sex offenses belong to the same class of crime, this supports interpreting section 784.7 to allow joinder of different sex crimes.
While the court erred in admitting uncharged non-sexual conduct under Evidence Code section 1108, the error was harmless. At appellant’s 2008 trial, the court admitted evidence of a series of crimes allegedly committed by appellant’s against his then girlfriend which took place between 1987 and 1991 even though there had been no charges, trial, or conviction. The crimes included not only uncharged sexual conduct, such as rape, but also uncharged crimes of violence, such as assaults, stalking, and false imprisonment. All of the testimony about the abusive relationship was admitted under Evidence Code section 1108. Appellant argued all of the evidence should have been excluded because the uncharged conduct was significantly different than the current crime since it involved conduct in a relationship. The appellate court found it was proper to admit the evidence of uncharged sex crimes because it showed appellant had a propensity for not taking “no” for an answer. On the other hand, the crimes of violence should have been excluded. The offenses admissible per section 1108 are enumerated in the statute, and these crimes did not fit the statutory definition. However, given the state of the evidence and the fact that the judge gave CALCRIM No. 1191, the error was harmless.