California Case Law - The FindLaw California Supreme Court and Courts of Appeal Opinion Summaries Blog

May 2013 Archives

App. Court Disregards Supreme Court, Orders Third Murder Retrial

Is there anything rarer than an appellate court choosing to ignore a poorly-reasoned state supreme court opinion?

Michael Pizarro has twice been convicted of murdering his 13-year-old half-sister, Amber Barfield, with special circumstances involving lewd or lascivious acts upon a child under age 14. On the night of her death in 1989, she went to retrieve her drunken older half-brother from the roadside after Pizarro had gotten into a drunken argument with his wife. Amber was found, suffocated, the following morning.

Pizarro was initially convicted largely on the basis of DNA evidence, but after numerous appeals, his conviction was vacated due to issues with the science employed. He was convicted again in 2008, but will be granted another retrial after juror misconduct brought the fairness of the retrial into question.

No Liability for Passengers That Liquored-Up Underage Driver

Drunk driver? Don't blame the underage suppliers.

This is the tale of five young girls, who did what many under-21 girls do: convinced strangers at a liquor store to buy them booze and helped supply a house party. (Think McLovin' from Superbad, only slightly more feminine.) Once the fun finished, the fabulous five hopped into a car, and soon thereafter, plowed into a bicyclist, who was severely injured. Along with his wife, he sought to sue not only the driver, but the four young ladies who provided the party favors.

Unfortunately for him, the California State Legislature was quite explicit in expressing its feelings on the subject.

SCOTUS to Hear Fernandez, a Calif. 'Warrantless Search' Case

In 2009, the search for a robbery suspect led police to the doorstep of convicted-felon Walter Fernandez. Police were investigating nearby when they heard the screams of his girlfriend and cohabitant, Roxanne Rojas. Once backup arrived, they knocked on the door and Rojas, with a bruised nose and bloody hand, answered.

Fernandez came to the door and refused to allow the police to enter, stating, “You don’t have any right to come in here. I know my rights.” He was taken into custody, and later identified as the suspect in the nearby robbery.

A short time later, the officers returned, notified Rojas that Fernandez was a suspect in a robbery, and asked for consent to search. She gave both written and verbal consent. The search turned up a shotgun, ammunition, a butterfly knife, and gang paraphernalia.

Boyfriend's 'Search Terms' Means OK to Search Girlfriend's Purse

Protip: If you are in the habit of using or possessing illegal drugs, don’t reside with a probationer — especially one subject to “search terms”.

Ronald Williams was on probation. An officer showed up to conduct a search incident to “search terms”, which allow an officer to search any area over which the probationer has access or control.

Williams lived with Brandy Ermi (the appellant) and her child. They all shared one bedroom. The officer searched that bedroom, and while searching, noticed a tan purse sitting out in the open in the middle of the room.

Cal. Supr. Court Upholds Riverside Medical Marijuana Zoning Ban

Local governments have a traditional land use and police power to allow, restrict, limit, or exclude certain types of businesses. For example, they might ban strip clubs within 100 feet of a school. This inherent power is granted wide deference by the courts and local zoning regulations are ordinarily upheld unless they conflict with state laws.

Medical marijuana laws in California have been narrowly interpreted in a variety of contexts, from criminal cases to the present zoning case. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and the Medical Marijuana Program have created exceptions in criminal law for those cultivating, prescribed or prescribing marijuana, and have prevented the use of state nuisance actions to shut down marijuana dispensaries.