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The People v. Lars U. Aspenlind

IN THE COURT OF APPEAL OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA THIRD APPELLATE DISTRICT (Placer)


August 10, 2011

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
LARS U. ASPENLIND, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.

(Super. Ct. No. 62-077263)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Blease , Acting P. J.

P. v. Aspenlind

CA3

NOT TO BE PUBLISHED

California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Defendant Lars U. Aspenlind appeals from his convictions for offering a false or forged instrument for filing or recording in a public office (Pen. Code, § 115, subd. (a)) and burglary. (Pen. Code, § 459).*fn1 On appeal, defendant contends: 1) his conviction is flawed as there was no indictment by a grand jury; 2) the trial court improperly denied his demurrer; 3) his due process rights were violated as he was not informed of the nature of the charges against him; 4) a civil judgment was included in his criminal proceeding; and 5) the trial court failed to follow the rule of stare decisis. Finding no error on these points, we will affirm.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

In November 2007, defendant was driving his Cadillac DeVille in Roseville when he was stopped by Officer Azevedo. During the course of that traffic stop, Officers Azevedo and Wolters determined that defendant's vehicle had to be towed. Officer Wolters was made responsible for that task. One of the forms Wolters completed relative to that task was a form which included his name.

On December 18, 2007, defendant filed and had recorded a UCC-1 form at the Placer County clerk recorder's office. A UCC-1 form is "a document representing a finance agreement between a debtor and a secured party." The form listed Wolters, as the debtor, his home as the property securing the lien and defendant as the secured party. The amount of the lien against the property was $24,300.

A few days later, Wolters arrived at his home and found an envelope at his home which contained documentation from the defendant indicating that there was a lien against the residence. Later, Wolters received the same documentation in the mail. He gave all the material to Roseville detectives.

At no point had Wolters, or the co-owner of the property, ever purchased anything from defendant, borrowed any money from him, provided defendant the right to secure collateral against the property, or taken any action giving defendant any legal interest in their home.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Following a preliminary hearing, defendant was charged by way of information with offering a false or forged instrument for filing or recording in a public office (§ 115, subd. (a)) and burglary (§ 459). It was further alleged the filing of the false document affected title or placed an encumbrance on a single-family residence. (§ 115.5)

Following a jury trial, defendant was found guilty on both charges and the enhancement allegation was found true. Imposition of sentence was suspended and defendant was placed on five years' probation, including a "disciplinary sentence of 120 days in County Jail, with credit for three days served." The disciplinary term was stayed based on defendant's representation he would be filing a notice of appeal.

DISCUSSION

Initially, we note defendant's brief fails to comply with the rules of appellate procedure, including his obligation to raise claims separately under an appropriate heading, showing the nature of the question to be presented and the point to be made, and to support any claims of error with both citation to the record and legal authority. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(1)(B).) We are not obligated to perform those functions on defendant's behalf and may treat the contentions as forfeited. (Lewis v. County of Sacramento (2001) 93 Cal.App.4th 107, 113; Badie v. Bank of America (1998) 67 Cal.App.4th 779, 784-785; People v. Meyer (1963) 216 Cal.App.2d 618, 635.) These procedural rules are not mere technical requirements; they are essential to the appellate process. Appellants must "present their cause systematically and so arranged that those upon whom the duty devolves of ascertaining the rule of law to apply may be advised . . . of the exact question under consideration, instead of being compelled to extricate it from the mass." (Landa v. Steinberg (1932) 126 Cal.App. 324, 325; accord, Opdyk v. California Horse Racing Bd. (1995) 34 Cal.App.4th 1826, 1830, fn. 4.) We recognize defendant brings this appeal without benefit of legal representation. Nonetheless, his self- represented status does not exempt him from the rules of appellate procedure or relieve him of his burden on appeal. Those representing themselves are afforded no additional leniency or immunity from the rules of appellate procedure simply because of their pro per status. (See Rappleyea v. Campbell (1994) 8 Cal.4th 975, 984; see also Nwosu v. Uba (2004) 122 Cal.App.4th 1229, 1246-1247.)

Further, what is there of defendant's brief is rambling, irrelevant and largely unintelligible. To the extent we can discern his arguments, and find the issues have not been forfeited, we will address them.

I

Defendant contends that since he was not indicted by a grand jury, he was not duly convicted and his civil rights were violated. He is wrong.

It has long been established that the Fifth Amendment's insistence upon a grand jury indictment as the exclusive mode to commence a criminal prosecution applies only in federal prosecutions. The due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment does not require the states to utilize the grand jury system, rather each state is entitled to determine for itself whether to utilize the grand jury system. (Hurtado v. California (1884) 110 U.S. 516, 538 [28 L.Ed. 232, 239].) California has made this determination and has authorized prosecution by way of an indictment or information. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 14.) "[T]he laws of this state permitting a prosecutor to proceed against an accused by way of information or grand jury indictment have been consistently upheld as meeting the constitutional due process test. [Citations.]" (People v. McGrath (1976) 62 Cal.App.3d 82, 85-86.) Here, defendant was held to answer following a preliminary hearing and an information was filed. Defendant's dues process rights were satisfied.

II

Defendant next contends the court erred in summarily denying his demurrer. Defendant does not provide a record citation to either the demurrer or the ruling on the demurrer. There is no written demurrer contained in the record before us, nor is there a record of the demurrer having been overruled. We cannot rule on matters not before us on the record. It is a well-established rule that "[a]ppellate jurisdiction is limited to the four corners of the record on appeal [Citations] . . . ." (In re Carpenter (1995) 9 Cal.4th 634, 646.)

It appears defendant's argument is that the court did not adequately consider the arguments raised in his demurrer rather than a claim that the decision overruling his demurrer was in error. Defendant provides no legal authority for the proposition that a court is required to explain the basis for its reasons overruling a demurrer. "Where a point is raised in an appellate brief without argument or legal support, 'it is deemed to be without foundation and requires no discussion by the reviewing court.' [Citation.]" (People v. Murray) (2008) 167 Cal.App.4th 1133, 1143.) Defendant's failure to provide citations to the record, legal argument or authority waives this issue on appeal. (People v. Hovarter (2008) 44 Cal.4th 983, 1029; People v. Meyer, supra, 216 Cal.App.2d at p. 635.)

Defendant also apparently attempts to relitigate the substantive issues raised in his demurrer, saying "[a]ll the issues in the demurrer are presented before this court." As indicated, there is no record of the demurrer before us. More importantly, an appellant may not raise an issue on appeal by simply incorporating by reference the legal arguments made in papers filed in the trial court. This is impermissible and forfeits the claim of error. (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.204(a)(1)(B); Balesteri v. Holler (1978) 87 Cal.App.3d 717, 720.)

Lastly, defendant made numerous filings apparently asserting the same grounds as those asserted in his demurrer, specifically that the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over the proceedings. The record demonstrates those assertions were fully considered before they were rejected. Accordingly, we reject defendant's claim that his arguments were not considered.

III

Defendant contends that he was not informed of the "proper Nature of the charges in violation of applicable Constitutional principles and rights." The record reflects otherwise.

"Due process of law requires that an accused be advised of the charges against him so that he has a reasonable opportunity to prepare and present his defense and not be taken by surprise by evidence offered at his trial." (People v. Jones (1990) 51 Cal.3d 294, 317; People v. Stone (2009) 46 Cal.4th 131, 141.)

Here, the information charged defendant in language substantially similar to the statutes. That is enough to satisfy his due process right to notice. (§ 952; People v. Thomas (1987) 43 Cal.3d 818, 826; People v. Singer (1963) 217 Cal.App.2d 743, 762.) Further, defendant was held to answer following a preliminary hearing. The preliminary hearing transcript gives the defendant ". . . 'practical notice of the criminal acts against which he must defend.'" (People v. Jones, supra, 51 Cal.3d at p. 317, quoting People v. Gordon (1985) 165 Cal.App.3d 839, 869 [conc. opn. of Sims, J., lead opinion overruled on separate grounds]; People v. Lopez (1998) 19 Cal.4th 282, 292.) Accordingly, having an information which charged him substantially in the language of the statutes and a preliminary hearing, defendant received adequate notice of the nature of the charges against him.

IV

Defendant contends the court erroneously merged civil and criminal actions by including a civil judgment as part of the criminal proceedings. Defendant does not reference any specific portion of the record to support his claim of error. As the People note, it appears he is objecting to the imposition of various fines and fees as a part of his criminal sentence. California law authorizes the imposition of fines and fees as part of criminal sentencing. (3 Witkin, Cal. Criminal Law (3d ed. 2000) Punishment, § 92, p. 146.) Their imposition is not a civil action. Accordingly, there is no merger of civil and criminal judgments.

V

Defendant argues that the court erred in failing "to follow rule of stare decisis." Specifically, he contends "the doctrine of Stare Decisis was not properly applied to the demurrer and several of the motions, requests, arguments and points and authorities in support thereof, in the instant case."

As above, there is no demurrer in this record on appeal. Further, defendant once again does not cite to any specific location in the record where the court did not appropriately consider and follow the governing law. Defendant's "motions, requests, arguments and points and authorities" constitute almost half of the clerk's transcript, 140 out of 312 pages. The failure to cite to any specific portion of the record to support his argument, combined with the failure to provide any specific analysis as to what principles of law the trial court disregarded and in what manner such failures prejudiced him, precludes us from making any meaningful review of this claim and forfeits the issue. (Lewis v. County of Sacramento, supra, 93 Cal.App.4th at p. 113.)

DISPOSITION

The judgment is affirmed

We concur: HULL , J. MAURO , J.


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