Knowles v. O'Connor

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Citation71 Cal.Rptr. 879,266 Cal.App.2d 31
Decision Date24 September 1968
PartiesJohn KNOWLES, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Joseph C. O'CONNOR, Defendant and Appellant. Civ. 8886.

Page 879

71 Cal.Rptr. 879
266 Cal.App.2d 31
John KNOWLES, Plaintiff and Respondent,
Joseph C. O'CONNOR, Defendant and Appellant.
Civ. 8886.
Court of Appeal, Fourth District, Division 1, California.
Sept. 24, 1968.

Page 880

[266 Cal.App.2d 32] Bertram McLees, Jr., County Counsel, Duane J. Carnes and Parker O. Leach, Deputies County Counsel, for defendant and appellant.

Anthony W. Bright, Escondido, for plaintiff and respondent.


GERALD BROWN, Presiding Justice.

Joseph C. O'Connor, San Diego County Sheriff, appeals from a judgment after court trial directing him to return three coin-operated baseball type amusement devices to their owner, plaintiff John Knowles. The machines had been confiscated as violating San Diego County Ordinance section 37.201, or, alternatively, as violating California gaming laws (Pen.Code, § 330 et seq.).

Knowles sought to recover the machines in this action under Penal Code, section 335a, which gives the superior court jurisdiction over such a matter.

[266 Cal.App.2d 33] At trial it was stipulated the one machine received in evidence was representative of the impounded three. Testimony by a repairman demonstrated the workings of the machine and how it was operated. No testimony was offered by the Sheriff.

The court found the machines to be coin-operated amusement-type devices consisting of a rectangular glass enclosed box on legs, slightly elevated at the back. By pressing a button with a left hand finger the player causes a steel ball to be ejected from the center of the playing surface so it rolls down to a bat which is activated by pressing another button with a finger of the right hand. When struck the ball is propelled to the elevated rear of the box where it will either strike a card registering a 'single', 'double', 'triple', or 'home run', or, if the cards are missed, an 'out'. Runs are scored by combination of hits advancing a 'base runner' to home plate. Sufficient runs scored entitle the player to free games. Three outs end the game.

There are no bumpers or pins on the machines' playing surface. The ball is pitched at a constant pre-set speed to a bat which, when activated, moves at a constant speed.

Page 881

The number of runs needed to win free games and the speed of the bat could be varied but requires and internal adjustment.

The court found the machines to be games of skill where the score to be achieved varies only with the skill and dexterity of the player. The skill is in pressing the button to swing the bat at the right time to strike the ball. In other words the skill depends on the reflexes and timing of the player. The player receives nothing of value from the machines other than free games which are for amusement purposes only. The Sheriff concedes there is no evidence the machines were used for gambling.

Whether a particular game is one of skill or chance is largely a factual issue (Williams v. Justice Court, 230 Cal.App.2d 87, 97, 40 Cal.Rptr. 724).

Here the trial court's finding the machines are...

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4 cases
  • Mason v. Mach. Zone, Inc., CIVIL NO. JKB-15-1107
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 4th Circuit. United States District Court (Maryland)
    • October 20, 2015
    ...other than free games for amusement purposes. Plaintiff supports her proposition with a cite to an older case, Knowles v. O'Connor, 266 Cal.App.2d 31, 71 Cal.Rptr. 879 (Ct.App.1968). Knowles did not actually impose such a limitation: it simply recognized that a particular amusement device, ......
  • Cossack v. City of Los Angeles
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • June 21, 1974
    ...or a game of chance depends upon which factor predominates, and this is a fact question for the trial court. (Knowles v. O'Connor, 266 Cal.App.2d 31, 33, 71 Cal.Rptr. 879; People v. Mason, 261 Cal.App.2d 348, 354, 68 Cal.Rptr. 17.) In the present case, the trial court found, supported by su......
  • Trinkle v. Stroh, C024840
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • December 18, 1997
    ...the principle that ambiguous penal provisions should be construed in the individual's favor. Plaintiffs cite Knowles v. O'Connor (1968) 266 Cal.App.2d 31, 33, 71 Cal.Rptr. 879, asserting the sheriff in that case conceded there was no evidence the pinball machines had been used for "gambling......
  • People v. Mousa, B282777
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • November 20, 2018
    ...device, and gives the superior court jurisdiction to order the destruction or return of such devices. (Knowles v. O'Connor (1968) 266 Cal.App.2d 31, 32 (Knowles).) The statute requires the officer to post notice of the seizure and to hold the alleged gambling device for 30 days, during whic......

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