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Name: People v. Turnage
Case #: S182598
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 08/06/2012

Because of the difference in the prohibited items, a conviction for violating Penal Code section 148.1, subdivision (d) (false bomb) does not violate equal protection, despite the absence of the requirement of sustained fear, as contained in Penal Code section 11418.1 (weapons of mass destruction). Appellant challenged his felony conviction for placing a false bomb at a county communications center as a violation of equal protection because the false bomb statute, unlike the weapons of mass destruction statute, does not require proof of sustained fear. The Supreme Court found no equal protection violation. Noting that the statute does not involve a suspect class or a fundamental right, the court observed that the statute survives unless there is no rational relationship between the disparity of treatment and some legitimate government purpose. Here, the difference regarding sustained fear between the two statutes reflects a legislative awareness of the different manner in which the false bombs and the false weapons of mass destruction are perceived. Because ordinary people will recognize a bomb and understand its nature, a false bomb planted with intent to cause fear when seen would almost certainly be expected to cause fear, including sustained fear. Thus, the Legislature could conclude that sustained fear is inherent in a bomb threat. Alternatively, the Legislature could have viewed false weapons of mass destruction, because of their varied forms and recognition by the public, differently. Facsimiles of weapons of mass destruction are not as certain to cause sustained fear, even when planted with such intent and, as such, there is not an inherent sustained fear in the false weapons of mass destruction threat.