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Name: People v. Taggart
Case #: F073982
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 01/23/2019
Summary

Defendant’s departure from California in violation of her “sheriff’s parole” was not an escape because mere constructive custody is insufficient physical restraint to constitute the “lawful custody” required by the statute. Taggart was convicted of felony escape (Pen. Code, § 4532, subd. (b)(1)) for leaving Kern County while she was on an alternative custody program sometimes called “sheriff’s parole,” in violation of the parole terms. On appeal she challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction. Held: Reversed. Section 4532, subdivision (b)(1) provides, in relevant part, “Every prisoner . . . convicted of a felony . . . who . . . is in the lawful custody of any officer or person, . . . who escapes or attempts to escape from . . . the custody of any officer or person in whose lawful custody he or she is . . . is guilty of a felony . . . .” After reviewing relevant case law and applying rules of statutory construction, the Court of Appeal determined Taggart’s parole did not constitute “lawful custody” as that term is used in the statute. The court “interpret[ed] ‘lawful custody’ according to its ordinary meaning and consistent with the structure of the statute and its legislative purpose as requiring actual physical custody or significant physical constraint.” The only physical limitation to Taggart’s parole was that she remain within the county. “The constructive custody inherent in sheriff’s parole involves relatively minimal physical constraint and is therefore insufficient to constitute custody under this definition.” [Editor’s Note: Justice Levy dissented, concluding that Taggart was a prisoner convicted of a felony and in lawful custody of the county sheriff.]

The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: https://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/archive/F073982.PDF