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People v. Cates

January 23, 2009

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
CHRISTOPHER SHANE CATES, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Sonoma County Super. Ct. No. SCR489599), James Bertoli, Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Simons, J.

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

In October 2006, appellant Christopher Shane Cates was placed on probation after pleading no contest to a felonious assault on his former girlfriend. In March 2008, the trial court modified that probation, ordering appellant to attend and complete a 52-week batterer's counseling program, even though he was performing satisfactorily at the time of the modification. The court reasoned that Penal Code section 1203.097*fn1 mandates imposition of the challenged condition, and the failure to impose it when probation was originally ordered in 2006 resulted in an unauthorized sentence that had to be corrected. Section 1203.097 requires imposition of certain conditions when a defendant is "granted probation for a crime in which the victim is a person defined in section 6211 of the Family Code."*fn2 That Family Code provision defines "domestic violence" as "abuse" perpetrated against specified persons.*fn3 Appellant argues that section 1203.097 should be narrowly construed to apply only to those defendants convicted of crimes that expressly target domestic violence victims. He contends that because he was convicted of the "generic crime" of assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (§ 245, subd. (a)(1)), imposition of the terms prescribed by section 1203.097 was not mandatory, even though the victim was his former girlfriend. We disagree. Section 1203.097 applies to any person placed on probation for a crime if the underlying facts of the case involve domestic violence, even if the statute defining the crime does not specifically refer to domestic violence. Thus, the trial court was obligated to correct its sentence even in the absence of a subsequent probation violation. The judgment is affirmed.

BACKGROUND*fn4

On June 14, 2006, appellant was involved in an altercation with his former girlfriend (the victim). The victim visited appellant at his home where he had been drinking alcohol. During the visit, the victim started drinking with appellant, they argued and appellant pushed the victim and kicked her in the stomach. The victim then locked herself in her car and called a friend for help. Appellant circled the vehicle and broke all the windows but the windshield with a long metal pipe. He then hit the victim in her back with the pipe as she sat in the driver's seat and grabbed her purse. After removing all the cash, appellant threw the purse back into the car, opened the driveway gate and told the victim to leave. The victim drove across the street and called the police, who arrested appellant.

On June 16, 2006, the People charged appellant with robbery (§ 211), assault with a deadly weapon by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (§ 245, subd. (a)(1)), willful infliction of corporal injury on a former cohabitant (§ 273.5, subd. (a)), and felony vandalism (§ 594, subd. (a)).

On July 5, 2006, pursuant to a negotiated agreement, appellant pled no contest to assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury (§ 245, subd. (a)(1)). Under the terms of the plea agreement, the remaining counts were dismissed. On October 11, 2006, the trial court placed appellant on probation for three years, the terms of which included nine months in county jail, 40 hours of volunteer work, a prohibition against alcohol consumption, and participation in educational, vocational, financial, medical, psychiatric, psychological, alcohol, or drug treatment counseling or assistance programs as directed by the probation department. During the sentencing hearing, the court asked, "This is not appropriate for d.v. sentencing, I guess. Is that correct?"*fn5 The district attorney responded, "I believe so, Your Honor." The court did not order appellant to participate in a batterer's counseling program.

In April 2007, appellant violated his probation by possessing or using alcohol. In May, the court reinstated and modified appellant's probation, ordering him to participate in an alcohol treatment program.

At the February 7, 2008 probation review hearing, the People asked the court to modify appellant's probation to require participation in the 52-week batterer's counseling program prescribed by section 1203.097, subdivision (a)(6). The People argued the underlying circumstances of appellant's conviction trigger application of section 1203.097. The court agreed that while a conviction for violating section 245, subdivision (a)(1), may not always require participation in a batterer's counseling program, section 1203.097 mandates imposition of certain probation conditions if the underlying facts involve domestic violence. The court considered that the victim was appellant's former girlfriend and that appellant was originally charged with willful infliction of corporal injury on a former cohabitant under section 273.5, subdivision (a), before that charge was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. On March 3, the court modified appellant's probation to require completion of a 52-week batterer's counseling program on the basis that section 1203.097, subdivision (a)(6), mandated imposition of the condition. Appellant challenges this ruling on appeal.

DISCUSSION

When a trial court grants probation for a crime in which the victim is a person defined in section 6211 of the Family Code, section 1203.097 requires the court to impose several conditions of probation, including participation in a batterer's counseling program. (People v. Delgado (2006) 140 Cal.App.4th 1157, 1163; see also id. at p. 1171 [holding that the probation conditions of section 1203.097 are mandatory but do not apply retroactively to crimes occurring before its enactment].) Appellant concedes section 1203.097 applies to defendants convicted of specified domestic violence crimes, such as " 'infliction of corporal injury on a former cohabitant' under... section 273.5, 'battery on a former cohabitant' under... section 243, subdivision (e)(1), or 'rape of a spouse' under... section 262, subdivision (a)." But appellant asserts that section 1203.097 is ambiguous as to whether it applies to defendants convicted of crimes that lack a specific reference to any particular victim, such as "the generic count of assault with force likely to cause serious bodily injury" under section 245, subdivision (a)(1). Appellant urges this court to interpret section 1203.097 to apply only to those crimes that expressly target domestic violence victims.

We hold the language of section 1203.097 is not ambiguous and affirm the trial court's determination that it applies to a violation of section 245, subdivision (a)(1), so long as the facts underlying the assault involve a victim defined in Family Code section 6211.

Subdivision (c) of section 6211 of the Family Code provides in pertinent part that " 'Domestic violence' is abuse perpetrated against any of the following persons: [¶]... [¶] (c) A person with whom the respondent is having or has had a dating relationship." "Abuse" is defined in Family Code section 6203.*fn6 Accordingly, section 1203.097 does not apply only to defendants charged with specified offenses; it encompasses defendants convicted of any crime of "abuse" so long as the victim is a person identified in Family Code section 6211.

People v. Selga (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 113 and People v. Brown (2001) 96 Cal.App.4th Supp. 1 are instructive. In Selga, the defendant pled guilty to section 646.9, subdivision (a), after stalking his former girlfriend. (Selga, at p. 115.) Section 646.9 is a "generic crime" by appellant's definition because it does not expressly target domestic violence victims.*fn7 At sentencing the trial court imposed a criminal protective order under section 1203.097, subdivision (a)(2), to protect the victim's current boyfriend. (Selga, at p. 119.) On appeal, the appellate court struck the protective order "[b]ecause section 1203.097 is directed at the protection of victims of domestic violence [and] a protective order under this section may be issued for the protection of only persons identified in section 6211 of the Family Code." (Ibid.) A protective order under section 1203.097 could be issued to protect the appellant's former girlfriend, but could not issue to protect her current boyfriend because he was not a person defined under Family Code section 6211. (Selga, at p. 119.) Thus, ...


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