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People v. Jason K.

October 7, 2010

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
JASON K., DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of San Diego County, Frederick Maguire, Judge. Affirmed. (Super. Ct. No. MH104123).

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Jason K. appeals after the court denied him relief from an order precluding him from possessing firearms for five years after his release from a facility at which he was detained for psychiatric evaluation under Welfare and Institutions Code section 5150.*fn1 The court denied the relief based on its finding that the People met their burden to show by a preponderance of the evidence Jason would not be likely to use firearms in a safe and lawful manner. (§ 8103, subd. (f)(6).)

Jason challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support the court's factual finding. He also contends section 8103, subdivision (f)'s preponderance of the evidence standard is unconstitutional, and the clear and convincing evidence standard should apply. We reject these contentions and affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 22, 2009, Jason's wife returned home at about 9:00 p.m. and found Jason intoxicated and passed out on the floor. Twenty-six-year-old Jason had been caring for their two-year-old son, who was sleeping in his bedroom. Jason was the primary caretaker for the son; his wife was employed by the Navy as an active duty communications specialist and was scheduled to deploy the next month.

When Jason woke up, he and his wife began to argue. Jason attempted to leave the residence, but his wife tried to stop him, which resulted in an exchange of shoves between the two. After Jason pushed his wife out of the way, he immediately grabbed a loaded handgun, cocked it, and said he was going to kill himself. His wife restrained Jason, who eventually dropped the gun.

Jason then left the residence and checked himself into Balboa Hospital, and was taken by ambulance to Paradise Valley Hospital. Jason told medical personnel that he and his wife had not been communicating and the problem was getting worse, and he was also experiencing financial stress. Jason was calm and cooperative, but admitted feeling depressed. He denied he intended to commit suicide, and stated he grabbed the gun to get his wife's attention. Although there were reports that he placed a shotgun in his mouth, he and his wife later denied this account. Jason said he had increased his use of alcohol, had been crying twice a week, used medical marijuana for back problems, and was having trouble sleeping. Jason also had abrasions on his hand from punching a wall. The hospital admitting form stated that Jason was "clearly frustrated & has shown a pattern of self-harming activity over past month to try to get wife to notice . . . ." Jason indicated he keeps numerous guns at his house in a safe. Jason's wife told a social worker that Jason threatened to shoot himself with the handgun, but Jason later denied saying this.

Based on an evaluation, the admitting psychiatric resident found there was probable cause to believe that Jason was a danger to himself, and should be admitted for a 72-hour evaluation under section 5150. Although Jason and his family did not want him to remain in the hospital, a treating psychiatrist concluded that he must remain in the hospital for the evaluation.

Jason was discharged two days later on April 25. He was not given any medications, but was encouraged to follow up with referrals and an aftercare plan. He was diagnosed with "[m]ajor depressive affective disorder, single episode, severe, without psychotic behavior." His prognosis was "[g]uarded due to chronic mental illness, chronic relapse, and chronic noncompliance." Jason's father told medical personnel that Jason keeps many of his father's guns at Jason's home, and that the father intended to remove all of the guns and return them to the father's home in Arizona. The psychiatric evaluation report noted that Jason is "intelligent, verbal and educated."

At the time of his discharge, Jason was advised of the law prohibiting him from possessing firearms for five years and his right to request a hearing to obtain relief from this prohibition. (§ 8103, subd. (f)(3).) Jason requested a hearing, and a hearing was held on August 21, 2009.

At the outset of the hearing, the People submitted into evidence Jason's confidential medical records and the police report.*fn2 The court then provided Jason time to review these records, and asked whether the records were accurate. With the exception of denying a statement that the incident involved a shotgun and that he had put the gun into his mouth, Jason acknowledged the information in the medical records was essentially accurate. He emphasized, however, that he did not intend to kill himself with the gun. He said his sole purpose in threatening to use the loaded weapon was to get his wife's attention, who had not been communicating with him.

The court then took a two-hour break in the hearing, stating it wanted to give Jason the opportunity to "compose" himself and that the district attorney would have the opportunity to be heard during the afternoon hearing.

At the beginning of the continued hearing, the court complemented Jason on his presentation and his responsible attitude, and stated it appeared that Jason had "snapped" on the evening of the incident. The court then asked whether Jason wished to provide any additional information for the court to consider. Jason responded that he realized he made an "extremely dumb" mistake, and that "a lot of good [has] come out of this," including that he has started going to church again and seeing a therapist every other week for the past month. Jason additionally informed the court that he owns more than 20 guns. He said law enforcement officers took possession of two of these guns and his parents took the remaining guns to their home in Arizona. Jason said he wanted to use the guns to go hunting, and that he knew ...


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