Defendant, who was confined in county jail awaiting trial, violated Penal Code section 243.9, subdivision (a) (battery by gassing) when he spit on a sheriff’s deputy in a courtroom before returning to the courthouse lockup. Valdez was transported from the county jail to attend court proceedings on pending charges. He was held in a lockup cell connected to the courtroom before his court appearance. After his appearance was over, a sheriff’s deputy instructed Valdez to return to the lockup. He spit on her face. Based on this incident, he was convicted of battery by gassing. On appeal, he argued there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction because he was not confined in “a local detention facility” while he was in the courtroom. Held: Affirmed. Section 243.9 provides that “[e]very person confined in any local detention facility who commits a battery by gassing upon the person of any peace officer . . . is guilty of aggravated battery.” Neither the plain language of section 243.9 nor its legislative history resolved whether the courthouse in this case was a “local detention facility.” When the meaning of a statute is unclear after examining both the statute’s plain language and legislative history, the court will apply reason, practicality, and common sense to the language at hand. Applying these principles, the Court of Appeal concluded that Valdez’s actions violated section 243.9. “Valdez was confined to the county jail while awaiting trial, brought to the courthouse by sheriff’s deputies, kept in the lockup until the court was ready to call his case, brought by bailiffs into the courtroom long enough for his pretrial matter to be heard, then returned to the lockup and eventually returned to the jail.” Construing “local detention facility” to include the courtroom in these circumstances furthers the purpose of the statute, which is to deter individuals in custody from spitting on, or throwing feces or urine on, peace officers.
The full opinion is available on the court’s website here: http://www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/B281975.PDF