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The People v. Indiana Lumbermens Mutual

January 30, 2012

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
INDIANA LUMBERMENS MUTUAL INSURANCE COMPANY, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



APPEAL from an order of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Richard H. Kirschner, Judge. Affirmed. (Los Angeles County Super. Ct. No. LA042180)

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

CERTIFIED FOR PUBLICATION

Defendant and appellant Indiana Lumbermens Mutual Insurance Company (Indiana), the surety on a bail bond, appeals an order denying its motion to vacate the forfeiture of a $625,000 bond and to exonerate bail.*fn1 We affirm the trial court's order denying the surety's motion.

Two felony cases were pending in the Los Angeles Superior Court against criminal defendant Joseph Parseg Mkrtchyan (Mkrtchyan): (1) a single-count robbery case (Pen. Code, § 211) in the West District, at the Airport Courthouse (the Airport case), in which Mkrtchyan was released on his own recognizance; and (2) an eleven-count robbery case in the Northwest District, at Van Nuys Courthouse West (the Van Nuys case), in which Indiana had issued a $625,000 bond.*fn2 At the time Indiana issued said bond in 2008, both cases were in existence. The Los Angeles Superior Court subsequently consolidated the two cases in Van Nuys, with the Airport robbery charge added as count 12 to the Van Nuys case. Mkrtchyan thereafter failed to appear and the bond was forfeited.

Indiana contends the addition of new and unrelated charges to the bail bond after it was posted constituted a material change in the conditions of the bond, so as to require exoneration of the bond.

The original felony complaint in the Van Nuys case alleged a robbery spree by Mkrtchyan in Los Angeles County during December 2002, including robberies committed by him on December 5 and 6 of 2002; the felony complaint in the Airport case alleged Mkrtchyan committed a robbery on December 5, 2002. On this record, the trial court reasonably could conclude the December 5 robbery count alleged in the Airport case was based upon acts supporting the complaint filed against Mkrtchyan in the Van Nuys case. Further, the addition of count 12 to the felony complaint in the Van Nuys case was a "duly authorized amendment" thereof within the meaning of the bond. Consequently, the language of the bond issued by Indiana in the Van Nuys case encompassed the additional robbery charge that ultimately was added to the charges pending against Mkrtchyan in the Van Nuys case.

Even assuming the December 5, 2002 robbery charge, which originally appeared in the felony complaint in the Airport case but later was added to the Van Nuys case as count 12, was unrelated to the charges in the Van Nuys case, the result would be the same. Before the two cases were consolidated on January 6, 2009, Mkrtchyan was free on his own recognizance in the Airport case and he was out on the $625,000 bond in the Van Nuys case. The consolidation of the two cases on January 6, 2009 did not increase Mkrtchyan's motivation to flee. Irrespective of whether Mkrtchyan was being prosecuted on the various robbery counts by way of two felony complaints or a single consolidated complaint, he was facing the same charges after the consolidation as before, and he stood to forfeit the same $625,000 if he failed to appear. Under the circumstances of this case, the inclusion of the robbery count filed in the Airport case with the charges filed in the Van Nuys case did not materially alter Indiana's risk therein.

For these reasons, we perceive no abuse of discretion in the trial court's ruling and affirm the order.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

In 2003, Mkrtchyan had two felony robbery cases pending against him. One of the cases, No. SA047386, the Airport case, involved a single count of second degree robbery. The other case, No. LA042180, the Van Nuys case, initially involved ten counts: six counts of second degree robbery, one count of attempted second degree robbery, and three counts of receiving stolen property. In March 2003, Mkrtchyan, who was out on bail, failed to appear in both cases, bench warrants were issued and his $500,000 bail was forfeited.

Five years later, in August 2008, Mkrtchyan was apprehended at Los Angeles International Airport. Upon being recaptured, the bench warrants in both cases were recalled and quashed. Mkrtchyan was remanded into custody.

In the Van Nuys case, which now consisted of 11 counts, Mkrtchyan was released on Indiana's $625,000 bond, executed on August 28, 2008. In the Airport case, Mkrtchyan inexplicably was released on his own recognizance. The $625,000 bond in the Van Nuys case is the subject of this appeal.

On January 6, 2009, on the People's motion and with no objection by the defense, the trial court ordered the single-count Airport case consolidated with the Van Nuys case, with the Airport count added as count 12 to the Van Nuys case. Bail was unchanged. It remained at $625,000 in the consolidated case because Mkrtchyan had been released on his own recognizance in the Airport case.

On June 23, 2009, Mkrtchyan failed to appear for trial in the consolidated case. As a result, the $625,000 bond was forfeited and an arrest warrant was issued.

On July 30, 2009, Indiana filed a motion to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bond. Indiana contended the trial court lost jurisdiction over the bond by applying it "not only to secure the appearance on the charges for which it was posted [i.e., the 11 counts in the Van Nuys case], but also applying the bond to an additional unrelated criminal act [i.e., the single-count Airport case] after the bond had been posted." Indiana argued the increased risk on the bond, without its consent, terminated its obligation on the bond.

In opposition, the People pointed out that Mkrtchyan was free on his own recognizance in the Airport case; therefore, when the Airport case was consolidated with the Van Nuys case, the bail was not increased. Thus, the ...


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