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The People v. Loren Curtis James

May 11, 2012

THE PEOPLE, PLAINTIFF AND RESPONDENT,
v.
LOREN CURTIS JAMES, DEFENDANT AND APPELLANT.



(Super. Ct. Nos. SF092803A, SF113370A)

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

P. v. James 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NOT TO BE PUBLISHED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 This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

After a trial to the court, defendant Loren Curtis James was found guilty of separate counts of driving under the influence and driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent or above. The court placed him on five years' informal probation monitored by the DUI court, including a county program for people with a history of alcohol abuse and multiple DUI convictions, and a condition he serve 10 months in jail.

On appeal, defendant contends the trial court erred in denying his Pitchess/Brady*fn1 motion to discover information in police personnel files. We disagree and affirm.

FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

Two police officers on regular patrol saw defendant driving in a 25-mile-per-hour zone and believed he was speeding. The officers followed him and gauged his speed to be about 40 miles per hour.

Before the officers attempted to stop him, he pulled over on his own. With the engine still running, he opened the door and began to get out of the car. The police parked behind his car, activated their lights, and ordered defendant to stay in the car. He did not comply, but he stood still when he got out and put his hands up. The officers smelled alcohol when they detained him in handcuffs. His eyes were red and watery. When one of the officers asked if he had been drinking, he admitted he drank "a little."

The officers ran a license check, which showed defendant's license was suspended due to active DUI probation. A blood draw showed he had a blood-alcohol level of .14 percent, to which he stipulated to at trial. He also stipulated to being under the influence while driving.

Before trial, defendant filed a hybrid Pitchess/Brady motion to discover relevant information in the arresting officers' personnel files, based on the theory that he was not speeding or driving under the influence and his arrest was a result of the officers' racial bias. The trial court summarily denied the motion. Both the defense and the prosecution waived a jury trial and defendant was found guilty after a short trial to the court.

DISCUSSION

Defendant contends the trial court erroneously denied his motion to discover information in police personnel files under Pitchess/Brady because he demonstrated good cause for in camera review of the records. We find no error in the trial court's ruling.

To obtain disclosure of police personnel records, a defendant must submit an affidavit "showing good cause for the discovery or disclosure sought." (Evid. Code, § 1043, subd. (b)(3).) "Good cause for discovery exists when the defendant shows both '"materiality" to the subject matter of the pending litigation and a "reasonable belief" that the agency has the type of information sought.'" (Warrick v. Superior Court (2005) 35 Cal.4th 1011, 1016.) A showing of materiality requires a defendant to set forth a "specific factual scenario of officer misconduct" that establishes "'a plausible factual foundation'" and "'articulate[s] a valid theory as to how the information sought might be admissible'" at trial. (Id. at p. 1025.) "To show good cause as required by [Evidence Code] section 1043, defense counsel's declaration in support of a Pitchess motion must propose a defense or ...


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