People v. Pallares

Decision Date30 June 1952
Docket NumberNo. 4,4
Citation112 Cal.App.2d Supp. 895,246 P.2d 173
Parties112 Cal.App.2d Supp. 895 PEOPLE v. PALLARES. Appeal Appellate Department, Superior Court, Fresno County, California
CourtCalifornia Superior Court

E. Clarke Savory, Dist. Atty., Fresno, Marvin E. Helon, Fresno, Deputy Dist. Atty., for the People.

Harry Sarkisian, Fresno, for defendant and respondent.

CONLEY, Judge.

The District Attorney of the County of Fresno filed an appeal from an order of the Municipal Court of the Fresno Judicial District sustaining defendant's demurrer to a complaint charging a misdemeanor, to wit: Violation of Section 647a(1) of the Penal Code. The order sustaining the demurrer was duly entered on the docket. Although no formal dismissal of the action was thereafter ordered, the People had a clear right of appeal.

Sec. 1466(1)(b), Penal Code; People v. Draper, 134 Cal.App.Supp. 787, 793, 22 P.2d 604; People v. Dobbs, 70 Cal.App.2d 261, 161 P.2d 46.

The complaint charges that the offense was committed as follows:

'The said defendant, on or about the 27th day of April, 1952, at and in the said County of Fresno, State of California, wilfully and unlawfully annoyed and molested Lupe Torres, age four years, in the Azteca Theater.'

The ground of the demurrer was that 'the facts therein stated do not constitute a public offense.'

In pleading the alleged crime the District Attorney observed generally the requirement of Section 952 of the Penal Code by following 'the words of the enactment'. The validity of the ruling in the Court below, therefore, depends on the question whether the wording of the statute itself is sufficient to state a public offense.

Section 647a of the Penal Code reads as follows:

'(1) Every person who annoys or molests any child under the age of 18 is a vagrant and is punishable upon first conviction by a fine of not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) or by imprisonment in the county jail for not exceeding six months or by both such fine and imprisonment and is punishable upon the second and each subsequent conviction or upon the first conviction after a previous conviction under Section 288 of this code by imprisonment in the state prison not exceeding five years.

'(2) Every person who loiters about any school or public place at or near which school children attend, or who loiters in or about public toilets in public parks, is a vagrant, and is punishable by a fine of not exceeding five hundred dollars ($500) or by imprisonment in the county jail for not exceeding six months, or by both such fine and imprisonment.'

Two major arguments are made by the defendant against the sufficiency of the enactment: First, that the words 'any child under the age of 18' are so uncertain that they have no fair and well-understood meaning; and, second, that the words 'annoys or molests' do not advise the public in understandable form of the acts which are forbidden.

On the first point raised, defendant contends that in using the words 'any child under the age of 18' the legislature might have intended them to apply to children under the age of 18 years, or only to children under the age of 18 months, 18 weeks or 18 days.

The object of all construction of code sections or statutes is to ascertain and give effect to the intention of the legislature. County of Los Angeles v. Frisbie, 19 Cal.2d 634, 639, 122 P.2d 526. 'If the words of an enactment given their ordinary and popular signification, are reasonably free from ambiguity and uncertainty, the Courts will look no further to ascertain its meaning.' (23 Cal.Jur., Pages 730-731).

'A statute should be read and considered as a whole to determine the legislative intent.' People v. Trieber, 28 Cal.2d 657, 663, 171 P.2d 1, 4.

'Words and phrases will, when possible, be given a reasonable construction, 'according to the context and the approved usage of the language' and in furtherance of what appears from a consideration of the whole enactment to be its true purpose and object.' 23 Cal.Jur., Page 745.

Words used in a statute should receive a sensible construction in accordance with their commonly understood meaning. Universal Pictures Corporation v. Superior Court, 9 Cal.App.2d 490, 493, 50 P.2d 500; Section 13, Civil Code.

The history of the legislation, the previous state of legislation on the subject, other statutes in pari materia, and the object sought to be attained by the legislation may be weighed in a proper case. People v. Earl, 19 Cal.App. 69, 71, 124 P. 887.

Has the phrase 'under the age of 18' a common and well-understood meaning as 'under the age of 18' years? The legislature of this State has previously so used the phrase with such meaning. Thus, Section 33 of the Civil Code reads in part:

'A minor cannot give a delegation of power, nor, under the age of eighteen, make a contract relating to real property * * *.'

And Section 35 of the Civil Code relates to 'the contract of a minor, if made whilst he is under the age of eighteen * * *'.

The Courts of this state have never had any difficulty in construing the phrase used in these sections of the Civil Code as meaning 'under the age of eighteen years'. See Annotations to Deering's Civil Code of California under Sections 33 and 35.

In numerous opinions, the Supreme and Appellant Courts of this state have used the phrase with the clear meaning of '18 years of age'. For example, see: Magee v. Welsh, 18 Cal. 155, 159; Hakes Investment Co. v. Lyons, 16 Cal. 557, 560, 561, 137 P. 911; Maier v. Harbor Central Land Co., 41 Cal.App. 79, 80, 182 P. 345; Burnard v. Irigoyen, 30 Cal.2d 861, 865, 866, 867, 186 P.2d 417.

Another illustration of the common and well-understood use of the phrase 'age of eighteen' (or other similar phrases using the numerals alone) as referring to years, is furnished by the article on 'Infants' in 14 Cal.Jur.:

'As has been seen, minors are males under twenty-one and females under eighteen.' (Page 113);

'If the contract which the infant would disaffirm was made by him when he was over eighteen, he must, as a condition of disaffirmance, restore the consideration or its equivalent.' (Page 127);

'A minor under eighteen may disaffirm a contract without restoring or offering to restore the consideration.' (Page 127)

'Though the general rule, in the absence of statute, is that the deed of an infant is voidable merely, in California, under Section 33 of the Civil Code, the deed of one under eighteen is absolutely void from the beginning, and conveys no title to, or interest in, the land. So a deed of trust on real estate executed by a minor under eighteen, is absolutely void.' (Page 131);

'A minor may disaffirm a conveyance made by him while under eighteen, without being under any legal duty, as a condition of disaffirmance, to restore the consideration received.' (Page 132);

'All persons are capable of committing crimes, except, among others, children under the age of fourteen, in the absence of clear proof that at the time of committing the act charged against them, they knew its wrongfulness. This means that minors under fourteen are incapable of crime, in the absence of the proof required.' (Page 135);

'Persons under eighteen, committing murder, are relieved from the death penalty. The fact that one is a minor under the age of twenty-one, and acts under the direction of a parent, is no defense to a prosecution for crime.' (Page 136). (Emphasis is ours.)

These examples of the common use of the phrase 'age of eighteen' as meaning 'age of eighteen years' could be multiplied easily, not only by quotations from the reported cases and legal texts, but from daily newspapers, periodicals and books on nonlegal subjects.

The subject matter of the entire Section read as a whole further reenforces our conclusion as to the legislative intent. The object of the enactment of the code section was the protection of children from interference by sexual offenders, and the apprehension, segregation and punishment of the latter. It is common knowledge that the subject of sex offenders, and particularly the protection of the young from improper advances, has in recent years engaged the close attention of the legislature and of the general body of the citizens of this State. The purpose of the legislation is indicated clearly by reference in the section to Section 288 of the Penal Code, by the increase of penalties for second offenders, and by the prohibition in the second subparagraph of the section of loitering near...

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  • Mandel v. Municipal Court for Oakland-Piedmont Judicial Dist., Alameda County
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • October 8, 1969
    ...from interference by sexual offenders, and the apprehension, segregation and punishment of the latter.' (People v. Pallares (1952) 112 Cal.App.2d Supp. 895, 900, 246 P.2d 173, 176; People v. Carskaddon, (49 Cal.2d 423, 318 P.2d 4) supra; People v. Moore (1955) 137 Cal.App.2d 197, 199, 290 P......
  • People v. Greene
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
    • October 15, 1973
    ...49 Cal.2d 423, 426, 318 P.2d P.2d 4; In re Sheridan (1964) 230 Cal.App.2d 365, 372, 40 Cal.Rptr. 894; and People v. Pallares (1952) 112 Cal.App.2d Supp. 895, 901, 246 P.2d 173.)'The element of annoyance as provided in Section 647a is not concerned with the state of mind of the child; it is ......
  • Gladys R., In re
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    • California Supreme Court
    • January 30, 1970
    ...for perpetration of an act proscribed by Penal Code section 647a with an abnormal sexual interest or intent. (People v. Pallares (1952) 112 Cal.App.2d Supp. 895, 901, 246 P.2d 173.) The Santa Clara County Superior Court, sitting as a juvenile court, found that the appellant's conduct brough......
  • U.S. v. Pallares-Galan
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    • February 20, 2004
    ...word `molests'" in the misdemeanor statute, section 647.6(a) ... "is, in general, a synonym for `annoy'," People v. Pallares, 246 P.2d 173, 112 Cal.App.2d Supp. 895, 901 (1952), and as the California Supreme Court observed in Annoy means to disturb or irritate, especially by continued or re......
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