Palos Verdes Estates, Client, 16, Throws Food at Bicyclist, Defense Verdict
Our client had grown to hate such sandwiches, but did not have the heart to tell her mom. Our client then decided to throw the sandwich out the car window at a bicyclist ahead. Our client thought her friends would find this funny.Condensed Version of This Case: Alleged assault by our high-school aged client throwing food at a bicyclist in Palos Verdes Estates. Client wins defense verdict at Palos Verdes High School Teen Court after Greg helps her argue that the alleged victim was never in fear of imminent harm, so no assault was committed.
As the car approached the cyclist, our client threw the sandwich, but it missed the cyclist. The cyclist, however, saw it pass by him and was alert enough to look up at the car’s license plate number and memorize it. The cyclist even picked up the sandwich as evidence.
Our client admitted throwing the sandwich immediately, apologizing and crying.
The police arrested our client on assault (Penal Code § 240) and took her back to the police station, where they fingerprinted her, booked her and placed in the women’s cell within the police station. They then called her parents, who were quite worried and upset.
The police released our client to her parents, with a signed promise to appear in the Inglewood juvenile court.
Greg explained that he had written an article about a recent federal case, wherein California law on assault was applied. In the federal case, a person threw a large chunk of concrete at a border patrol agent, but missed. The border patrol agent suddenly saw the concrete crash next to him, but he was never in danger of being hit by it because the thrower’s aim was poor, just as our sixteen year old client’s aim. Greg then e-mailed the parents a link to the article he had written (http://www.greghillassociates.com/victim-must-know-of-danger-to-have-conviction-for-assault.html).
This was an unusual decision by the probation department. The parents then talked quite a bit more with Greg, asking Greg to explain what other charges could be added to the complaint against their daughter. Greg explained that littering (Penal Code § 374.3) could be alleged, as well as disturbing the peace (Penal Code § 415), although this latter charge would most likely really not apply because there was no loud noise made, no fighting in public and no utterances of fighting words. However, Greg explained that if the police were so unfamiliar with the elements of assault, they may be equally ignorant of the requirements for disturbing the peace.
Greg focused most on the elements required for assault and explained that courts struggle with the mental state of the victim, whether any anxiety is required in the intended victim. In 2001, in People v. Williams (2001) 26 Cal.4th 779, 790 (endnote 5), for example, the California Supreme Court held that “assault does not require a specific intent to cause injury or a subjective awareness of the risk that an injury might occur. Instead, the court there said, assault only requires an intentional act and actual knowledge of those facts sufficient to establish that the act by its nature will probably and directly result in the application of force against another.”
Most judges in California, however, are taught about assault in the context of federal law and that since the client only meant to make her passengers laugh, she did not even have the intent to hit the cyclist with the sandwich or even scare the bicyclist. The parents understood this and then explained that this would have to be her defense position.
At the teen court hearing four weeks later, our client received a not guilty verdict. The client and her parents were very happy they had spoken to Greg and he had guided the client through this situation – for free.
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