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Name: People v. Traylor
Case #: S157820
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 07/13/2009

Under Penal Code section 1387, subdivision (a), prior dismissal of a felony complaint does not bar prosecution for the same conduct as a misdemeanor where the lesser misdemeanor charge lacks elements essential to the felony. Appellant was initially charged by complaint with felony manslaughter. The nine-year-old victim had been operating a motorcycle on a narrow, winding and undulating country road when he was struck by a vehicle driven by appellant and died soon after. At the preliminary hearing, it was established that neither speed nor alcohol was a factor in the collision but that appellant may have been driving on the wrong side of the road as he approached the crown of a hill and was unable to see on-coming traffic. Following presentation of evidence, the court concluded that there was no evidence of gross negligence, only negligence, and did not hold appellant to answer on the felony charge. The trial court granted appellant’s motion for dismissal of the subsequently filed misdemeanor complaint. The appellate court upheld the dismissal, ruling that failure to hold appellant to answer on the felony complaint resulted in dismissal of the action and under Penal Code section 1387, it could not be refiled as a misdemeanor. (Burris v. Superior Court (2005) 34 Cal.4th 1012.) On the facts of this case the Supreme Court disagreed and reversed, finding that section 1387 subdivision (a) applies only to successive prosecutions “for the same offense.” Here, since misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter based on ordinary negligence lacks the requirement of proof that defendant operated his vehicle with gross negligence, the felony and manslaughter charges do not contain the same elements and section 1387, subdivision (a), therefore, does not bar prosecution for the conduct as a misdemeanor.