People v. Canfield

Decision Date01 November 1974
Docket NumberCr. 17546
Citation12 Cal.3d 699,117 Cal.Rptr. 81,527 P.2d 633
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 527 P.2d 633 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Corinthians CANFIELD, Defendant and Appellant. In Bank

Leslie C. Nichols, Palo Alto, under appointment by the Supreme Court, for defendant and appellant.

Rose Elizabeth Bird, San Jose, Richard S. Buckley, Public Defender (Los Angeles County), Harold E. Shabo and Martin Stein, Deputy Public Defenders, as amici curiae on behalf of defendant and appellant.

Evelle J. Younger, Atty. Gen., Edward A. Hinz, Jr. and Jack R. Winkler, Chief Asst. Attys. Gen., William E. James and Edward P. O'Brien, Asst. Attys. Gen., Derald E. Granberg, Thomas P. Dove and Clifford K. Thompson, Jr., Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

McCOMB, Justice.

Defendant appeals from a judgment (order granting probation) of conviction entered upon a jury verdict finding him guilty of auto theft (Veh.Code, § 10851).

Facts: On the afternoon of October 6, 1971, Joan Petroni parked and locked her 1967 green Buick automobile in front of her home in San Jose and took the keys into the house. The following morning, the Buick was gone.

Officer Robert Arnold, of the California Highway Patrol, testified that early on the morning of October 7, 1971, he observed two automobiles apparently racing each other at speeds of approximately 100 miles an hour. One of them was a green Buick. The officer immediately gave chase, activating his rear amber and front red lights. After he had followed the cars for about eight miles, both of them pulled off the roadway onto the dirt shoulder. The officer got out of his vehicle and started toward the green Buick. The driver of that car looked directly at the officer and then sped away. The officer ran back to his car at once and again gave chase. After traveling another mile and a half, at speeds of up to 115 miles an hour, the Buick turned onto a side road and eventually spun out of control and into the Delta Mendota Canal. Miraculously, the driver (defendant) was uninjured.

The Buick was the one which belonged to Ms. Petroni. Following its removal from the canal, Officer Arnold examined it and, after observing that there was no key in the ignition, discovered that it had been hot-wired.

Defendant testified that he had purchased the Buick around 3 a.m. on October 7, 1971, for $1,300 in cash from one Levicks at Mickey's Blue Room, a bar in East Palo Alto. He said that he had brought a little over $500 with him to the bar around 1 p.m. on October 6, 1971; that he gambled there and had about $1,900 at the time he bought the car; and that later, after buying the car, he left $600 with his girl friend at her home and retained only $10 in his pocket. He said that he then set out for Fresno, where he had formerly lived.

According to Officer Arnold's testimony, defendant told him shortly after his arrest that he had seen in the San Jose Mercury on October 6, 1971, an advertisement of the car for sale and that he later purchased it from a man named 'Levitts' at Mickey's Blue Room. At his trial, defendant admitted that that was what he had told the officer; but he said that it was not true, explaining that he had thought he would be released from jail sooner if he lied than if he told the truth.

Defendant testified that he had never met Levicks prior to the night he bought the car, but said that he had let people know some time before that he was interested in buying a car and that one of his friends had told him about the car Levicks had for sale and arranged for the two to meet at Mickey's Blue Room. The car supposedly belonged to Levicks' brother, who, defendant was told, was in the service in Texas at that time. Defendant drove the car around the block to test it. Then, after being assured by Levicks that it was not a stolen vehicle and that the brother would send him the automobile registration and the trunk key by mail, he completed the transaction, paying the full amount of the purchase price in cash. Defendant had been driving the car for five and one-half hours by the time it spun out of control and went into the canal; and he testified that during all that time he never once turned the motor off, because he was afraid he would not be able to get it started again. 1

Defendant further testified that just after the car went into the canal, he grabbed the key out of the ignition, put it in his pocket, and swam to the shore and that while he was at the jail he turned the key over to an unknown officer there. He denied that the car had been hot-wired.

In explaining why he had sped off after stopping the car on Officer Arnold's signals to stop, defendant testified that although he knew he was speeding, he had no idea why the officer had been chasing him; that he recalled he had had trouble with the San Mateo Police Department; and that the officer had his hand quite close to his gun, and he was afraid the officer might kill him.

On cross-examination, defendant was asked how much he had won at gambling between March (when he moved to the Bay Area from Fresno) and October of 1971. Defendant gave an estimate of $75,000 and said that he had spent some of the money on expenses, such as clothing and jewelry, and had lost the rest in gambling. Defendant was then asked if he had ever filled out a financial eligibility statement. Following a conference at bench, the trial court ruled that defendant could be impeached by the form he had signed for the public defender pursuant to section 27707 of the Government Code. 2

Defendant had initially been interviewed at the jail by a legal aide named John Porter, who was a recent law school graduate working for the public defender while awaiting the results of the bar examination. Mr. Porter had asked whether defendant could afford private counsel and was told that he could not. After noting that defendant owned little more than a 1954 Oldsmobile, Mr. Porter asked him to sign the financial eligibility form. The form provided that the statement was being made under penalty of perjury, but at no time did Mr. Porter read the form to defendant or explain that he was signing under oath.

Defendant was charged with auto theft (Veh.Code, § 10851) and receiving stolen property (Pen.Code, § 496). He was, as hereinabove noted, found guilty of the auto theft charge, but he was acquitted on the other. He was granted three years' probation, contingent upon his serving one year in the county jail.

Questions: First. Is defendant's financial eligibility statement protected by the lawyer-client privilege?

Yes. It is clear from the circumstances under which the statement was given that it was given in confidence 3 (see Evid.Code, § 952) 4 and that defendant's purpose was to retain the public defender to prepresent him in the criminal proceedings against him. Under sections 951 and 954 of the Evidence Code, therefore, any disclosures made by defendant in the course of the interview were privileged and could not be revealed without his consent. 5

The lawyer-client privilege is, indeed, so extensive that where a person seeks the assistance of an attorney with a view to employing him professionally, any information acquired by the attorney is privileged whether or not actual employment results. (Sullivan v. Superior Court, 29 Cal.App.3d 64, 69(4), 105 Cal.Rptr. 241.)

In indicating the reasons for the privilege, this court said in City and County of San Francisco v. Superior Court, 37 Cal.2d 227, 235(12), 231 P.2d 26, 30: 'The privilege is given on grounds of public policy in the belief that the benefits derived therefrom justify the risk that unjust decisions may sometimes result from the suppression of relevant evidence. Adequate legal representation in the ascertainment and enforcement of rights or the prosecution or defense of litigation compels a full disclosure of the facts by the client to his attorney. 'Unless he makes known to the lawyer all the facts, the advice which follows will be useless, if not misleading; the lawsuit will be conducted along improper lines, the trial will be full of surprises, much useless litigation may result. Thirdly, unless the client knows that his lawyer cannot be compelled to reveal what is told him, the client will suppress what he thinks to be unfavorable facts.' (Citation.) Given the privilege, a client may make such a disclosure without fear that his attorney may be forced to reveal the information confided to him. '(T)he absence of the privilege would convert the attorney habitually and inevitably into a mere informer for the benefit of the opponent."

A relationship of trust and confidence between an indigent defendant and his attorney is now, in view of this court's determination that a defendant has no constitutional right to defend Pro se at his trial, considered indispensable. (See Drumgo v. Superior Court, 8 Cal.3d 930, 938, 106 Cal.Rptr. 631, 506 P.2d 1007 (dissenting opinion).) And it is clear that if an accused is informed that the first information he provides his attorney is not privileged, he would not have the trust in his counsel so essential in providing effective representation. The problem is particularly serious with respect to indigents represented by the public defender, there apparently being a tendency on the part of many such defendants to regard the public defender as an arm of the state working closely with the prosecutor. (See Wilkerson, Public Defenders as Their Clients See Them (1972) 1 Am.J.Crim.L. 141.)

In United States v. Kahan, 415 U.S. 239, 94 S.Ct. 1179, 39 L.Ed.2d 297, the Supreme Court of the United States held that the trial court had properly admitted evidence that the defendant, a former immigration inspector charged with illegally receiving gratuities for official acts, had falsely stated at his arraignment, when questioned by the court, that he lacked funds to employ an attorney. The trial court had appointed counsel to represent the defendant...

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