Raner, In re

Decision Date21 May 1963
Docket NumberCr. 7255
Citation381 P.2d 638,30 Cal.Rptr. 814,59 Cal.2d 635
CourtCalifornia Supreme Court
Parties, 381 P.2d 638 In re James G. RANER on Habeas Corpus.

James G. Raner, in pro. per., J. Perry Langford, under appointment by the Supreme Court, and Edgar G. Langford, San Diego, for petitioner.

Stanley Mosk, Atty. Gen., and Gordon Ringer, Deputy Atty. Gen., for respondent.

SCHAUER, Justice.

This matter is before us on an order to show cause issued upon an application for writ of habeas corpus filed in propria persona by petitioner James G. Raner, who is confined as a narcotics addict for treatment in the California Rehabilitation Center under an order of commitment entered by the superior court purportedly pursuant to article 3, chapter 11, title 7, of part III of the Penal Code (§§ 6500-6510, which deal with commitment to that facility of 'persons not charged with a crime'). We appointed counsel to represent petitioner in these proceedings.

In In re De La O (1963) 59 A.C. 140, 28 Cal.Rptr. 489, 378 P.2d 793, and In re Butler (1963) 59 A.C. 169, 28 Cal.Rptr. 508, 378 P.2d 812, we upheld as constitutional chapters 11 and 12, title 7, of part III of the Penal Code, including therefore the particular statutory provisions claimed to constitute the authority under which the present petitioner was committed to the California Rehabilitation Center. Citing Robinson v. California (1962) 370 U.S. 660, 82 S.Ct. 1417, 8 L.Ed.2d 758, petitioner first attacks the constitutionality of such provisions on substantially the same grounds as those discussed in In re De La O, supra. For the reasons set forth in our opinion in that case, these contentions are without merit.

Far more serious as to the integrity of the instant commitment are petitioner's contentions that the procedural safeguards set up by the subject statute were disregarded in his case and hence that he was committed illegally and without due process of law. The record supports petitioner's allegations in this respect, and indicates a seeming lack of concern on the part of the State for a number of fundamental procedural rights provided by this legislation. The statute itself is not wholly free from constitutional doubts but in In re De La O (1963), supra, 59 A.C. 140, 161(13), 28 Cal.Rptr. 489, 378 P.2d 793, we resolved those doubts in favor of upholding the enactment; yet while the Legislature may, in uncharted areas such as narcotic addict rehabilitation, experiment to a certain degree and within constitutional limits, the unauthorized 'experimentation' and procedurally distorted application (amounting to a virtual rewriting) of the statute which are shown in the record at bench 1 cannot be tolerated.

Illegal Detention Prior to Hearing.

Petitioner's commitment proceeding began on July 11, 1962, when the district attorney filed a 'Petition for Commitment' in the superior court purportedly pursuant to Penal Code section 6500. 2 On the same day a warrant of apprehension issued out of the superior court, commanding inter alia that after apprehension petitioner 'be kept at Narcotic Rehabilitation & Treatment Prereception Center pending hearing.' Petitioner alleges that he was served with this warrant and was booked in the Los Angeles County jail on July 13; the People's return admits this allegation, and further states that 'petitioner was taken from thence to Biscailuz Center, Los Angeles Sheriff's detention facility on July 16, 1962, where he was housed in a barracks with other persons awaiting hearings upon Petitions for Commitment, and was returned to the County Jail on July 17, remaining there until July 26.' The commitment hearing was held on July 19, and on July 26 petitioner was transferred to Chino.

The detention of petitioner for the six days between his apprehension and his commitment hearing was illegal and without statutory authority. Penal Code section 6502 is explicit in providing that 'The court may * * * order that the person (sought to be committed) be confined pending hearing in a county hospital or other suitable institution if the petition (for commitment) is accompanied by the affidavit of a physician alleging that he has examined such person within three days prior to the filing of the petition and has concluded that, unless confined, such person is likely to injure himself or others or become a menace to the public.' (Italics added.) Petitioner alleges that he was not examined by a physician 'within three days prior to the filing of the petition (for commitment)'; the People's return admits this allegation, and further admits that 'the Petition for Commitment was not accompanied by a physician's affidavit' as provided for in section 6502. 3

The People take the position that the illegality of petitioner's detention prior to hearing 4 did not affect the legality of the subsequent order of commitment. The People first argue that 'the unlawfulness of a defendant's apprehension has no beawring on the merits' of the charge and does not preclude maintenance of the proceeding for commitment (citing People v. Hernandez (1961) 197 Cal.App.2d 25, 29(1), 17 Cal.Rptr. 20); but that proposition itself 'has no bearing on' the case at bench, for it is not the illegality of petitioner's apprehension that is here in issue but the illegality of his subsequent detention. More relevant is the People's further argument that the application for habeas corpus 'contains no allegation that any statements petitioner may have made to the doctors ordered to examine him were involuntary or that any evidence obtained by the doctors through their examination of him was a 'necessary product of the illegal detention" (citing Rogers v. Superior Court (1955) 46 Cal.2d 3, 10(13), 291 P.2d 929). Viewing the matter in this light, it could conceivably be contended that the case at bench is controlled by the rule that after judgment a defendant may not complain of a denial of his pre-trial right to be taken before a magistrate within the time specified by law (Pen.Code, § 825) 'unless he shows that through such wrongful conduct he was deprived of a fair trial or otherwise suffered prejudice as a result thereof.' (People v. Combes (1961) 56 Cal.2d 135, 142(1), 14 Cal.Rptr. 4, 363 P.2d 4, and cases there cited.)

The foregoing rule, however, is inapplicable to the subject proceedings. As we held in In re De La O (1963), supra, 59 A.C. 140, 162(14), 28 Cal.Rptr. 489, 378 P.2d 793, 'The commitment procedures set up by the subject statute are in the nature of special civil proceedings unknown to the common law * * *.' Being a creature of statute, jurisdiction to enter an order of commitment pursuant thereto depends on strict compliance with each of the specific statutory prerequisites for maintenance of the proceeding. Thus, in directing the release on habeas corpus of a person committed under the statutes relating to habit-forming drug addicts (now, Welf. &amp Inst.Code, §§ 5400-5408), the court in In re Crowley (1928) 95 Cal.App. 219, 221(1)-222(2), 272 P. 787, reasoned that 'proceedings such as the one under consideration are purely statutory and are not based upon the common law * * *. This leads to the conclusion that the requirements of the statutes must be at least substantially, if not strictly, followed in order to give the court wherein it is proposed to hear the proceedings, jurisdiction thereof. * * * If jurisdiction is not required (acquired?) by reason of the affidavit not complying with section 2168 of the Political Code (now, Welf. & Inst.Code, § 5050, post fn. 5), it appears that the subsequent action of the court in directing the issuance of the commitment does not give vitality to that which was void in the first instance.' (Italics added.)

The subject affidavit requirement of Penal Code section 6502 is apparently derived from an earlier provision in the law relating to the commitment of mentally ill persons. 5 In In re Hofmann (1955) 131 Cal.App.2d 758, 281 P.2d 96, a person committed under that law was ordered released on habeas corpus on the ground, among others, of an unlawful detention prior to hearing. The court there reasoned (id. at pp. 761-762(1), 281 P.2d at 98-99) that under section 5050 of the Welfare and Institutions Code (ante, fn. 5) 'There is no evidence before the court of the existence of facts which would have warranted the immediate hospitalization or detention of Mrs. Hofmann. She had a right to remain in her home pending the examination. Deprivation of this right affected adversely her interests in all the subsequent proceedings.

'The authority of the court in such matters is statutory. (Citations.) The right of the patient to remain at liberty with an opportunity to consult with relatives and friends, to receive legal advice, and in other ways prepare for the examination and hearing, is one that should be scrupulously observed by the authorities. * * * There was, in our opinion, not even substantial compliance with the prescribed procedure; we can only conclude that petitioner's present confinement is illegal.' (Italics added.)

Likewise, the statutory right (in the absence of the physician's affidavit provided for in Penal Code section 6502) of a person sought to be committed as a narcotics addict to remain at liberty with an opportunity to consult with relatives and friends and to obtain legal advice 'is one that should be scrupulously observed by the authorities.' (In re Hofmann (1955), supra.) Indeed, section 6502 is even stricter in this regard than the statute involved in the Hofmann case in that it does not allow pre-hearing detention simply on a finding by the court that 'it otherwise affirmatively appears that (the) person is likely to injure himself or others' (Welf. & Inst.Code, § 5050, ante, fn. 5); under the specific language of Penal Code section 6502 (quoted ante, p. 816) the minimal allowable ground for pre-hearing detention requires the physician's affidavit that was omitted in the case at bench. 6Failure...

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