People v. Victor

Citation398 P.2d 391,42 Cal.Rptr. 199,62 Cal.2d 280
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Decision Date27 January 1965
Parties, 398 P.2d 391 The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. Alex VICTOR, Defendant and Appellant. Sac. 7600.

Milton L. McGhee, Sacramento, for defendant and appellant.

Stanley Mosk, Atty. Gen., Doris H. Maier, Asst. Atty. Gen., Edsel W. Haws and Edward A. Hinz, Jr., Deputy Attys. Gen., for plaintiff and respondent.

SCHAUER, Justice.*

Defendant appeals from an order committing him to the custody of the Director of Corrections as a person 'in imminent danger of becoming addicted to narcotics,' for placement in the narcotic addict rehabilitation program purportedly pursuant to article 3, chapter 11, title 7, of part III of the Penal Code (§§ 6500-6510, which deal with commitment of 'persons not charged with a crime').

Defendant contends that the statute authorizing his involuntary commitment as a person 'in imminent danger of becoming addicted' is unconstitutionally vague and is beyond the police power of the State; properly construed, however, the statute is not vulnerable to either attack. But defendant further argues that the superior court lacked jurisdiction to entertain proceedings to commit him pursuant to Penal Code sections 6500 to 6510 after judgment of conviction of a crime had been entered against him, sentence had been imposed and partially suspended, and while he was confined in jail as a condition of probation. We have concluded that the latter contention is meritorious and hence that the order of commitment should be reversed.

On December 11, 1962, defendant pleaded guilty in municipal court to the misdemeanor of possession of narcotic paraphernalia (Health & Saf.Code, § 11555). According to the minutes of that court it was thereupon 'Adjudged, that defendant is guilty of the crime of possession of narcotic paraphernalia (11555 H & S Code) and that he be imprisoned in the San Joaquin County Jail for 180 days. Ordered one day suspended. Credit for time served. Commitment issued.' (People's Ex. 4). A court has no power to suspend part or all of a sentence except as an incident to granting probation (Pen. Code, §§ 1203, 1203.1, 1203a); therefore, when a court after pronouncing judgment and sentence of imprisonment orders part or all of the sentence to be suspended, such order is deemed to be an 'informal' but effective grant of probation. (Oster v. Municipal Court (1955) 45 Cal.2d 134, 139(3-4), 287 P.2d 755, and cases there cited). It follows as a matter of law that in the case at bench the municipal court must be held to have imposed sentence on defendant, 1 then summarily granted him probation and as a condition thereof ordered him confined in the county jail for 179 days, less time already spent in custody. (For a similar ruling, see People v. Wallach (1935) 8 Cal.App.2d 129, 133 (3), 47 P.2d 1071.)

On February 19, 1963, i. e., while defendant was still confined in jail as a condition of probation the district attorney filed a petition in the superior court to commit defendant to the California Rehabilitation Center pursuant to Penal Code section 6500. 2 On the basis of that petition two physicians were appointed, examined defendant, and filed their reports concluding that defendant was 'in imminent danger of becoming addicted to narcotics.' At a hearing held on April 5, 1963 (nearly four months after defendant's 'commitment' to jail) the court found defendant to be 'in imminent danger of becoming addicted to narcotics' and ordered him committed as such to the narcotic addict rehabilitation program. (Pen.Code, § 6506.) Defendant demanded and received a jury trial (Pen.Code, § 6508), but the jury likewise found that he was 'in imminent danger of becoming addicted' to narcotics.

Cost of Transcripts on Appeal

This is the first appeal to reach us from an order of commitment to the custody of the Director of corrections for placement in the narcotic addict rehabilitation program. In his notice of appeal, prepared in propria persona, defendant requested transcripts of the commitment proceedings. Apparently treating the matter as an ordinary civil appeal, the reporter presented defendant with a demand for prepayment of the estimated cost ($200) of such transcripts. Defendant filed an affidavit of indigency, stating that he had no funds to prepay such costs. The district attorney thereupon moved to dismiss the appeal for failure to deposit with the clerk the estimated cost of the transcripts. After argument, the court denied the motion to dismiss and ordered that 'the Record on Appeal be prepared and the cost of it be borne by the County.'

This ruling was proper. In In re De La O (1963) 59 Cal.2d 128, 156(20), 28 Cal.Rptr. 489, 378 P.2d 793, 98 A.L.R.2d 705, we stated that 'the commitment procedures set up by the subject statute are analogous to the civil commitment procedures of the Sexual Psychopathy Law, and by the same analogy and for the same reasons an original order of commitment under Penal Code section 6450 is 'appealable as a final judgment in a special proceeding under section 963 of the Code of Civil Procedure.' (People v. Gross (1955), supra, 44 Cal.2d 859, 860(2) (285 P.2d 630), and cases there cited.)' In an earlier stage of the Gross case (Gross v. Superior Court (1954) 42 Cal.2d 816, 821(5a-5b), 270 P.2d 1025), the petitioner sought mandate to compel preparation at the State's expense of transcripts of the proceeding in which he was adjudged a sexual psychopath. We granted the relief prayed for, reasoning as follows: 'The proceeding is not strictly a criminal case * * * yet it is to be noted it has some of the features pertinent to such cases. The state is defendant's opponent. The one sought to be declared a sexual psychopath is entitled to bail pending determination. (Citations.) He is entitled to be present at the hearing and if he has no counsel the court may appoint one for him or order the public defender to serve. (Citation.) His liberty is at stake. Since those things are matters pertaining to the protection and rights of a person similar to one involved in a criminal case we believe he falls within the terms of section 69952 of the Government Code (providing for payment of transcript fees out of the county treasury). (See In re Paiva, 31 Cal.2d 503 (190 P.2d 604); People v. Smith, 34 Cal.2d 449 (211 P.2d 561).)' Similar considerations obtain here and lead us to the same conclusion, i. e., that persons involuntarily committed to the custody of the Director of Corrections under this program have the right to a free transcript on an appeal from the order of commitment.

Lack of Jurisdiction to Entertain Commitment Proceedings

To resolve the jurisdictional issue it is necessary to view the statutes in their setting. The legislation establishing a program of civil commitment of narcotics addicts and those 'in imminent danger' of addiction is found in chapters 11 and 12 of title 7, part III of the Penal Code. (See generally In re De La O (1963) supra, 59 Cal.2d 128, 28 Cal.Rptr. 489, 378 P.2d 793; Notes, 1 San Diego L.Rev. (1964) 58; 8 Utah L.Rev. (1962-1964) 367.) Articles 2 and 3 of chapter 11 provide two distinct commitment procedures, ostensibly differentiating between 'Persons Charged with a Crime' (art. 2) and 'Persons not Charged with a Crime' (art. 3). Such headings, however, do not affect the scope, meaning, or intent of the legislation (Pen.Code, § 10004; In re De La O (1963) supra, 59 Cal.2d 128, 137(1), 28 Cal.Rptr. 489, 378 P.2d 793) and it appears that in practice the distinction actually observed is between persons who have been brought to trial and 'convicted' (which in this context means whose guilt of crime has been established by plea, verdict, or finding) and those who have not. 3

Far more serious, though, is the confusion which has been engendered by the very fact that there are two such distinct statutory mechanisms for the commitment of addicts to the same rehabilitation program: article 2 simply declares (in Pen.Code, §§ 6450 and 6451) that proceedings brought thereunder 'shall be conducted in substantial compliance with Sections 5353, 5053, 5054, and 5055 of the Welfare and Institutions Code,' whereas article 3 undertakes to spell out in detail (Pen.Code, §§ 6502-6508) the various steps required in processing a petition for commitment filed under its provisions. Our continuing concern with the fair and effective administration of the narcotic commitment program constrains us to examine the experience of the courts with the actual operation of the statutory scheme following our decision upholding its constitutionality in In re De La O (1963) supra, 59 Cal.2d 128, 28 CalRptr. 489, 378 P.2d 793. That experience, insofar as revealed to us, prompts the following observations:

First, the wholesale importation into article 2 of the listed provisions of the Welfare and Institutions Code (§§ 5353, 5053, 5054, and 5055) has proven to be costly and inefficient. As we observed in In re Jones (1964) 61 A.C. 322, 325, fn. 3, 38 Cal.Rptr. 509, 392 P.2d 269, 'The legislature could not have intended literal compliance with all of the provisions of sections 5053, 5054, or 5055 of the Welfare and Institutions Code. These sections were enacted to provide a hearing procedure for mentally irresponsible persons. For that reason, if taken literally, they would be, in part, inappropriate for a civil narcotics commitment procedure.' In an effort to minimize this patent inappropriateness the Legislature provided that in commitments under article 2 there need only be 'substantial compliance' with the listed Welfare and Institutions Code sections. But the introduction of this element of uncertainty into an already novel procedure appears to have created more problems than it has solved. For example, if the statute referred to expressly requires the attendance at the hearing of 'at least two medical examiners' (Welf, & Inst,Code, § 5053), can the attendance of any less than...

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