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Name: People v. Townsend
Case #: B216325
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 2 DCA
Division: 6
Opinion Date: 03/15/2010

Possession of a Molotov cocktail is an offense involving an implied threat to use force or violence within the meaning of the Mentally Disordered Offender Act (Pen. Code, § 2962). Appellant challenged his commitment to the Department of Mental Health as an MDO based on his possession of Molotov cocktails. When he was committed in 2006 for the crime, appellant had paranoid delusions, including his belief his neighbors were systematically burglarizing homes and committing malfeasance with respect to mortgage payments. When arrested, appellant told officers he carried Molotov cocktails for self-protection. While a patient at Patton State Hospital, appellant wrote to a neighbor informing her he had placed Molotov cocktails on her property. Police found 12 Molotov cocktails in the neighbor’s yard. On appeal, Townsend averred his commitment offense does not fall within the MDO act. The Court of Appeal noted a person may be committed as an MDO if his commitment offense 1) was a crime in which the offender used force or violence, or caused serious bodily injury, or 2) a crime involving the implied threat to use force or violence likely to produce substantial physical harm. Appellant’s possession of Molotov cocktails, which are extremely dangerous, posed a threat to public safety. This danger was increased due to appellant’s delusional beliefs. There is no safe way to store Molotov cocktails and, in any event, appellant did not intend to merely store them – he carried them for self-protection. Townsend viewed his neighbors as enemies, thus his possession of the Molotov cocktails constituted an implied threat to his neighbors, bringing appellant within the MDO Act.