People v. Victor C. (In re Victor C.)

Decision Date29 June 2015
Docket NumberA141599
CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals Court of Appeals
PartiesIn re Victor C., a Person Coming Under the Juvenile Court Law. THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. VICTOR C., Defendant and Appellant.


California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

(Mendocino County Super. Ct. No. SCUK JDSQ 13-1691201-002)

Victor C. appeals from the juvenile court's jurisdiction findings and an order declaring him a ward of the court. Victor, who was 16 years old at the time of the offenses, was found to have carried a concealed dirk or dagger (Pen. Code, § 21310) and resisted a police officer (id., § 148, subd. (a)(1)). On appeal, Victor contends his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress evidence purportedly obtained through an illegal detention and arrest; the jurisdictional findings are not supported by substantial evidence; and the juvenile court abused its discretion by denying his motion for informal supervision, under Welfare and Institutions Code section 654.2.1 We agree that substantial evidence does not support the juvenile court's finding that Victor concealed a knife on his person. Accordingly, we remand for a new disposition hearing.


On December 25, 2013, around 3:00 a.m., Fort Bragg Police Officer Jeremy Mason was patrolling, in uniform and a marked police car, in an area that had recently reported multiple mail thefts. Specifically, Mason testified that on the previous day approximately 47 thefts had been reported of "gifts, money, gift cards all that kind of stuff sent during the holiday season." It was raining intermittently and several street lights were out, "so it was very dark."

Mason noticed someone wearing dark clothes walking eastbound on the sidewalk of East Pine Street: "[W]hen I first saw the person, I was quite a distance away and the only thing I noted was that it was early morning hours and the person was in dark clothing on Christmas, it seemed suspicious to me." Mason maneuvered his car to get closer and drove very slowly. Mason didn't see anyone, "which seemed odd." Once past the area where he had seen the person, Mason looked in his rearview mirror and noticed "something underneath a SUV . . . in the area I had seen the person in the first place."

Mason turned his car around and returned to the location "to try to figure out what that object was. [¶] . . . [¶] Initially it looked like some kind of cat or something, it was a white object moving around oddly." Mason then saw "two legs and shoes of a person. [¶] . . . [¶] . . . And as I was driving eastbound I noted the person[, later identified as Victor,] was now staying, keeping the vehicle between themselves and me." Mason was asked, "were you able to see the top part of [Victor's] body?" Mason responded, "[n]ot at all." Thinking Victor was "acting very suspiciously," Mason got out of his car and approached on foot. Victor "stood up" and started walking westbound away from Mason.

Mason called out, "Hey, over there, what are you doing?" Victor did not respond to being addressed in a "normal tone," so Mason "upped [the] level of authority" in his voice and repeated the question. When Victor still failed to respond, Mason approached so that he was about 10 feet away from Victor and yelled, "Hey, stop." Victor started to run, and as Mason gave chase he heard an object fall from Victor and hit the ground. Mason could not initially see what fell, but could tell from the noise that it was metal.

Victor eventually slipped and fell. Mason fell on top of Victor and placed him in handcuffs. After Victor was placed in a police car, Mason returned to the area where Victor had been running to look for stolen items. Mason found a large knife and a sheath on the ground. The knife blade was about six inches long. Mason believed that the knife fell from Victor's person, and he was certain that it could not have fallen out of Victor's pant leg or hands. Victor wore "a large dark shirt with dark pants." Mason said, "if I recall correctly" Victor's shirt was not tucked in. Mason could not remember whether Victor was wearing a belt. Mason reviewed his report and stated, "I don't specifically see where I noted that he was wearing a belt."

Victor was taken to the Fort Bragg police station. Victor was intoxicated. After being allowed to use the restroom at the police station, he shoved Mason out of the way, fled outside to the parking lot, and unsuccessfully attempted to scale a chain link fence topped with three feet of barbed wire. During booking, Victor responded affirmatively to a question about whether he intended to harm himself. Mason testified: "He [stated he] was going to use his knife [to cut his throat] and pointed to the knife that was sitting next to me on the booking table . . . ."2

The Mendocino County District Attorney filed a section 602 petition, which charged Victor with carrying a concealed dirk or dagger (Pen. Code, § 21310; count one); prowling (id., § 647, subd. (h); count two); obstructing or resisting a police officer (id., § 148, subd. (a)(1); counts three and five); and violation of curfew (Mendocino County Code, §§ 8.08.010, 8.08.030; count four).3 Victor was detained for further investigation of his claims that he wanted to harm himself and that he suffered physical abuse at home.

At the contested jurisdictional hearing, the juvenile court found counts one, three, and five to be true. At disposition, the court elected to treat count one, a "wobbler," as a misdemeanor. The court adjudged Victor a ward of the court and imposed formal probation in parental custody. The court explained: "And because there [are] some issues with regards to the family, . . . I'm concerned about the lack of candor and cooperation during the interview, there was a lot of contradictory information there. I'm going to follow probation's recommendation and declare Victor a ward as opposed to adopt the defense request for informal probation." Victor filed a timely notice of appeal.


Victor contends: (1) his trial counsel was ineffective for failing to move to suppress evidence purportedly obtained through an illegal detention and arrest; (2) the juvenile court's jurisdictional findings are not supported by substantial evidence; and (3) the juvenile court abused its discretion by denying his motion for informal supervision, under section 654.2, without obtaining a more detailed report from the probation department. We conclude that Victor's substantial evidence argument has merit with respect to count one.

A. Fourth Amendment

Victor contends that the knife and his statement about the knife should have been suppressed as the fruits of an illegal detention or arrest. Recognizing the claim was forfeited by failure to raise it below, Victor argues that his trial counsel was ineffective in failing to move to suppress.

To establish ineffective assistance of counsel, a defendant must show: (1) counsel's performance was so deficient that it fell below an objective standard of reasonableness, under prevailing professional norms, and (2) the deficient performance was prejudicial, rendering the results of the trial unreliable or fundamentally unfair. (Strickland v. Washington (1984) 466 U.S. 668, 688, 692; People v. Ledesma (1987) 43 Cal.3d 171, 216-217.) As an ineffective assistance of counsel claim fails on an insufficient showing of either element, a court need not decide the issue of counsel's alleged deficiencies before deciding if prejudice occurred. (People v. Rodrigues (1994)8 Cal.4th 1060, 1126.) Generally, prejudice must be affirmatively proved. (Strickland, at p. 693.)

"The Sixth Amendment does not require counsel to raise futile motions." (People v. Solomon (2010) 49 Cal.4th 792, 843, fn. 24.) Thus, "[a] claim of ineffective assistance of counsel based on a trial attorney's failure to make a motion or objection must demonstrate not only the absence of a tactical reason for the omission [citation], but also that the motion or objection would have been meritorious, if the defendant is to bear his burden of demonstrating that it is reasonably probable that absent the omission a determination more favorable to defendant would have resulted." (People v. Mattson (1990) 50 Cal.3d 826, 876.) We agree with the People that a motion to suppress would not have been successful.

1. Reasonable Suspicion

Victor contends his detention violated the Fourth Amendment because Mason had no reason to believe Victor was involved in criminal activity. "The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures. (U.S. Const., 4th Amend.; Terry v. Ohio (1968) 392 U.S. 1.) 'A detention is reasonable under the Fourth Amendment when the detaining officer can point to specific articulable facts that, considered in light of the totality of the circumstances, provide some objective manifestation that the person detained may be involved in criminal activity.' (People v. Souza (1994) 9 Cal.4th 224, 231.)" (People v. Hernandez (2008) 45 Cal.4th 295, 299.)

" ' "[I]n order to justify an investigative stop or detention the circumstances known or apparent to the officer must include specific and articulable facts causing him to suspect that (1) some activity relating to crime has taken place or is occurring or about to occur, and (2) the person he intends to stop or detain is involved in that activity. Not only must he subjectively entertain such a suspicion, but it must be objectively reasonable for him to do so: the facts must be such as would cause any reasonable police officer in a like position, drawing when appropriate on his training and experience [citation], to suspect the same...

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