New Court Opinion on Dissuading a Witness in Domestic Violence Case

Though not ocurring in Long Beach, this case was decided recently in California. The accused was convicted of multiple charges related to shooting at his girlfriend and evading arrest. On appeal, he argued that the conviction for assault with a firearm was not supported by substantial evidence and that the statute under which he was convicted of dissuading a witness violated the First Amendment and was vague. The appellate court found sufficient evidence of the necessary mental state for assault despite the lack of evidence that appellant knew that the bullet shot at a door would penetrate it. Substantial evidence established that appellant fired a gun into a door through which the victim had just walked. This met the prosecution’s burden to establish that a reasonable person would realize this could result in great bodily injury. It also rejected the constitutional challenge to the dissuading a witness charge. First Amendment protections are not absolute, and California has a strong interest in supporting and protecting citizens who report violations of criminal laws. The defendant prevented the victim from talking with the police by grabbing the phone from her, and later told her to tell police everything was fine. His intent was clearly to dissuade the victim from reporting his crimes to police. The criminal statute on its face is geared toward similar situations to the present one, where a defendant abuses a cohabitant and thereafter attempts to prevent the victim from seeking help. There was no basis for a finding that the statute was uncertain or unconstitutionally vague.

About thetorranceattorney

Matthew Ruff is a Torrance criminal defense attorney located near the 405 freeway on Crenshaw Blvd. Focusing on DUI and serious criminal cases for over twenty years. In addition to criminal cases, Matthew also defends clients at the DMV.
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