People v. Trantham

Decision Date30 July 1984
Docket NumberCr. 21191
Citation208 Cal.Rptr. 535,161 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1
CourtCalifornia Superior Court
Parties161 Cal.App.3d Supp. 1 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Roger Kenneth TRANTHAM, Defendant and Appellant. Appellate Department, Superior Court, Los Angeles County, California

Jay M. Kohorn, Los Angeles, for defendant and appellant.

Ira Reiner, City Atty., Jack L. Brown, and Greg Wolff, Deputy City Attys., for plaintiff and respondent.


Following a jury trial, defendant Roger Kenneth Trantham was found guilty as charged in a misdemeanor complaint with entering, remaining, staying or loitering in a park between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. of the following day. (L.A.Mun.Code, § 63.44, subd. (B)(14) [hereafter, section (or s) 63.44(B)(14) ].) We find no merit to defendant's position on appeal and affirm.

On January 25, 1983, Los Angeles Police Officer Gary Brusatori went to North Hollywood Park to investigate complaints from residents concerning loitering at the park. 1 Officer Brusatori and his partner arrived at the park at approximately 11 p.m. A short time later, Officer Brusatori saw defendant drive into the parking lot. There are signs posted on either side of the driveway used by defendant indicating that the park is closed between 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. Each sign is approximately 12 inches wide by 18 inches high and placed about six feet above the ground. A street light on the sidewalk illuminated both signs and, in addition, the headlights of defendant's vehicle further illuminated the signs as he entered the parking area.

Defendant left his vehicle and walked into a nearby public restroom. On the south side of this restroom is posted a third sign declaring that the park is closed between 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. This sign, which is the same size as the two signs posted at the park entrance, is illuminated by a light on the southeast corner of the restroom. After two or three minutes, defendant left the restroom, walked to a group of trees, and spent seven to eight minutes walking behind the trees.

There are tennis courts at this park about 200 yards from the trees where defendant was lingering but Officer Brusatori saw no one playing tennis. The closest telephone was also about 200 yards from the tree area. Officer Brusatori placed defendant under arrest at approximately 11:15 p.m.

Defendant claimed in his defense that he was on his way home from work and drove into the park in search of a restroom when he saw people playing tennis. It was revealed on cross-examination, however, that it would have been more direct for defendant to have taken the freeway if he was going home and that defendant could not recall the names of the people he had supposedly worked for that evening. The evidence further showed that defendant drove by a gas station that had restrooms and an open restroom near the tennis courts before entering the park.


On appeal defendant attacks his conviction by challenging the constitutionality of section 63.44(B)(14), 2 specifically its proscription against any person entering, remaining, staying, or loitering in a public park between the hours of 10:30 p.m. and 5 a.m. 3

Seizing upon the word "loitering," defendant labels section 63.44(B)(14) an anti-loitering or curfew ordinance and condemns it as violative of due process for the reason that the ordinance fails to afford the requisite notice of the conduct proscribed and for the reason that it is void for vagueness and overbreadth.

In this regard defendant cites Katzey v. County of Los Angeles (1959) 52 Cal.2d 360, 341 P.2d 310. The Katzey court observed that: "Both the California Constitution, article I, section 13, and the Constitution of the United States, Fourteenth Amendment, provide that no person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Due process means that 'No one may be required at peril of life, liberty or property to speculate as to the meaning of penal statutes. All are entitled to be informed as to what the State commands or forbids.' (Lanzetta v. New Jersey, 306 U.S. 451, 453 [59 S.Ct. 618, 83 L.Ed. 888]; In re Porterfield, 28 Cal.2d 91, 120 [168 P.2d 706, 167 A.L.R. 675].)" (Id., at p. 370, 341 P.2d 310; accord, Mandel v. Municipal Court (1969) 276 Cal.App.2d 649, 659, 81 Cal.Rptr. 173.) He further asserts that "the void-for-vagueness doctrine requires that a penal statute define the criminal offense with sufficient definiteness that ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited and in a manner that does not encourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. ( [Citations.] )" (Kolender v. Lawson (1983) 461 U.S. 352, 357, 103 S.Ct. 1855, 1858, 75 L.Ed.2d 903, 909.) Moreover, a statute that makes no distinction between harmful and innocent conduct is void for overbreadth. (See Seattle v. Drew (1967) 70 Wash.2d 405, 423 P.2d 522; see, also, Model Pen.Code [Proposed Official Draft 1962] § 250.6; Alves v. Justice Court (1957) 148 Cal.App.2d 419, 306 P.2d 601; cf. In re Nancy C. (1972) 28 Cal.App.3d 747, 105 Cal.Rptr. 113.)

Although conceding that "[a] local entity might have the right to regulate use of its parks," defendant contends that this cannot be done "in a loitering statute which provides no notice requirement," which he claims is the case here since "[t]here is no requirement under the present law for actual knowledge or scienter by a defendant, for posted signs, for lighting for signs which might be posted, for posting of signs at all possible entrances such as jogging trails, for warnings by police, or for any other adequate notice or for any notice whatsoever." He concludes that this lack of actual notice violates the notice mandate of the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. (Lambert v. California (1957) 355 U.S. 225, 227, 78 S.Ct. 240, 242, 2 L.Ed.2d 228.)

Defendant submits that "[i]n order to be constitutional, the present ... ordinance would have to articulate some overt conduct which would be sufficient to provide law enforcement with probable cause to believe that defendants were lingering ["loitering"] with the specific intent to commit a crime." (See In re Cregler (1961) 56 Cal.2d 308, 14 Cal.Rptr. 289, 363 P.2d 305.) He argues that the absence of such standard renders section 63.44(B)(14) impermissibly vague for the reason that this deficiency encourages arbitrary and discriminatory law enforcement. (Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville (1972) 405 U.S. 156, 169-171, 92 S.Ct. 839, 847-848, 31 L.Ed.2d 110; Kolender v. Lawson, supra, 461 U.S. 352, 103 S.Ct. 1855, 75 L.Ed.2d 903.) He further argues that "[s]imply lingering ["loitering"], alone, is not and cannot be made a crime ...," and thus, section 63.44(B)(14) is overbroad to the extent it criminalizes such innocent conduct.

We find no constitutional infirmity.

The basic fallacy of defendant's position is his myopic focus upon the word "loiter," which has led him to misconstrue the purpose and nature of section 63.44(B)(14). "The cardinal rule of statutory construction is that a provision is to be construed so as to effect the intent of the Legislature. (People v. Ruster (1976) 16 Cal.3d 690, 696 [129 Cal.Rptr. 153, 548 P.2d 353, 80 A.L.R.3d 1269]; Mercer v. Perez (1968) 68 Cal.2d 104, 112 [65 Cal.Rptr. 315, 436 P.2d 315].) When determining legislative intent, the plain meaning of clear statutory language should be followed unless there is compelling evidence that another meaning was intended. (People v. Chadd (1981) 28 Cal.3d 739, 746 [170 Cal.Rptr. 798, 621 P.2d 837]; In re Andrews (1976) 18 Cal.3d 208, 212 [133 Cal.Rptr. 365, 555 P.2d 97].)" (People v. DePaul (1982) 137 Cal.App.3d 409, 414, 187 Cal.Rptr. 82.)

It is also incumbent upon us to construe "ordinances as a whole, and in context, giving effect wherever possible to the usual and ordinary import of the language used, and avoiding interpretations which render a measure unreasonable, disharmonious, or superfluous in whole or in part. ( [Citation.] )" (Longshore v. County of Ventura (1979) 25 Cal.3d 14, 24, 157 Cal.Rptr. 706, 598 P.2d 866; see, also, Estate of McDill (1975) 14 Cal.3d 831, 837, 122 Cal.Rptr. 754, 537 P.2d 874.)

Mindful of these principles of statutory construction, we scrutinize section 63.44(B)(14). From our review of that section in its entirety, we are persuaded that it is simply a park closure law. In other words, "the closing hours" are "the hours of 10:30 ... p.m. and 5:00 ... a.m. of the following day" for any park under its purview except Royal Palms Beach whose closing hours are "the hours of 8:00 ... p.m. and 5:00 ... a.m. of the following day." Moreover, a supervising employee "may extend the 10:30 p.m. closing time for up to one hour to accommodate any departmentally approved event." ( § 63.44(B)(14).)

Also self-evident from our review of section 63.44(B)(14) is that the purpose of its directive that "[n]o person shall enter, remain, stay or loiter in any park between the hours of 10:30 ... p.m. and 5:00 ... a.m. of the following day ..." is to place a person on notice as to what conduct is proscribed when the park is closed.

In addition to the notice component of the void-for-vagueness doctrine, its more important element has been recognized as its requirement for minimal guidelines to govern law enforcement in order to discourage arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement of the law. (Kolender v. Lawson, supra, 461 U.S. 352, 358, 103 S.Ct. 1855, 1859, 75 L.Ed.2d 903, 909.)

It is in the context of a statute's propensity for containing discriminatory law enforcement that courts have determined whether the words "loiter" and "loitering" in a statute must be construed to connote lingering for an innocent purpose or lingering for a sinister purpose. "It is a well-settled principle that if the terms of a statute are by a fair and reasonable interpretation capable of a meaning consistent with the requirements of the Constitution the statute will be given that meaning,...

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