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Name: People v. Turnage
Case #: C059887
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 04/01/2010
Subsequent History: rev. granted 7/14/10 (S182598)

The felony punishment for Penal Code section 148.1, subdivision (d) (placing a false bomb with the intent to cause fear) is a violation of the right to equal protection because the punishment is harsher than that for the similarly situated Penal Code section 11418.1 (placing a false weapon of mass destruction). Appellant placed a box with “C-4” written on the side and a flag sticking out of the top underneath a key pad which accessed entry to the county communications center. An employee coming to work observed the box and, fearing it might be a bomb, contacted the police. The box was x-rayed and found to contain bleach and motor oil. At jury trial, appellant was convicted of Penal Code section 148.1, subd. (d), which is a “wobbler,” as a felony, and two prior “strike” convictions were found to be true. The court sentenced him to twenty-five years to life. Comparing section 148.1, subdivision (d) with section 11418.1, the appellate court observed that the Legislature modeled section 11418.1 on the section 148.1 bomb threat statute, although the bomb statute has no provision regarding the victim being in sustained fear, and believed that since the conduct was similar, the penalties should be similar. In keeping with the intent, because the type of object placed is the only distinction between the two [save for the “sustained fear” aggravating element of the WMD statute] the conduct should be treated equally. Therefore, felony punishment for the bomb statute, without the “sustained fear,” results in a violation of equal protection which requires those similarly situated to be punished similarly. Accordingly, the penalty for appellant’s conviction was reduced to a misdemeanor.