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Name: People v. Williams
Case #: F062575
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 5 DCA
Opinion Date: 08/08/2013
Summary

Penal Code section 386 (prohibition on the unlawful construction or maintenance of a fire protection system) is a specific intent crime. Appellant, a contractor in the fire protection industry, was hired by Svenhard Swedish Bakery to repair the sprinkler system of a vacant factory that Svenhard planned to convert into a commercial bakery and production plant. Appellant’s bid was almost $50,000 less than that offered by another contractor. After a portion of the work was completed, it was inspected and found to be deficient. Appellant was charged with and convicted by a jury of twenty-six counts of violating section 386; one count of conspiracy to violate section 386; grand theft; diversion of construction funds; and twenty-six misdemeanor charges for an assortment of regulation violations. An enhancement allegation for victim losses (Pen. Code, § 12022.6, subd. (a)(1)) was also found true. On appeal appellant argued that there was insufficient evidence to support the convictions for violating section 386, conspiracy, and the enhancement. The court agreed and reversed. Section 386 is a specific intent offense and does not impose strict liability for poor workmanship or proscribe acts of negligence or incompetence. Although the evidence may have called into question appellant’s business practices and ethics, it did not support a finding that he acted with intent to impair the effective operation of Svenhard’s fire protection system. As the conspiracy charge was tied to the alleged section 386 offenses, it also was not supported by the evidence. The evidence also did not support the section 12022.6, subdivision (a)(1) finding because appellant was entitled to at least some of the $82,000 he received and the record failed to show that the fair market value of his services was $17,000 or less. The grand theft and diversion of funds charges were found to be supported by the evidence as appellant accepted payment for work not completed.