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Name: People v. Villa
Case #: C059808
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 10/15/2009

Penal Code section 12021, subdivision (e) (juvenile adjudged ward for specified offense prohibited from possession of a firearm) and Penal Code section 12031, subdivision (a) (prohibited possession of a loaded firearm in a public place) do not violate an individual’s Second Amendment right to bear arms. Having previously been adjudged a ward of the juvenile court for assault with a deadly weapon, appellant was charged directly in the criminal court with attempted murder, committed when he was 16 years of age. (Welf. & Inst. Code, sec. 707, subd. (d)(1).) He was subsequently convicted of possession of a firearm by a juvenile and possession of a loaded firearm in public. On appeal, appellant argued that the convictions were invalid because the statutes violated the holding in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) 554 U.S. __ [128 S.Ct. 2783, 171 L.Ed.2d 637], that an individual has the right to keep and bear arms. The court rejected the argument, noting that the right is not limitless and is subject to the state’s ability to prohibit felons from possessing firearms. (See People v. Flores (2008) 169 Cal.App.4th 568.) Further, Penal Code section 12021, subdivision (e) is not a blanket prohibition, as compared to the Heller statute, and it is narrowly tailored to reach its achieved result of keeping guns out of the hands of violent people.
Failure to conduct a fitness hearing pursuant to Penal Code section 1170.17, subdivision (c) is subject to harmless error. Under Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (d)(1), a minor aged 16 years can be directly prosecuted in a court of criminal jurisdiction without first being found unfit to be dealt with as a juvenile, if he is charged with a crime listed in section 707, subdivision (b), which includes attempted murder. However, if the minor is then convicted of an offense that is not listed in subdivision (b), the minor is subject to disposition under the juvenile court law unless the district attorney demonstrates that the person is not fit to be dealt with under the juvenile system. Here, following appellant’s convictions for the non-section 707, subdivision (b) offenses, the court sentenced him to state prison without requiring the prosecution to prevail at a fitness hearing. Although finding this to be error, the court ruled that appellant must show that the error was prejudicial, and appellant was not able to do so as he made no showing that a fitness probation report or fitness hearing would have made any difference. (Cal. Const., art. VI, sec. 13; People v. Watson (1956) 46 Cal.2d 818.)