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People v. Lopez

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Los Angeles

August 8, 2013

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
RICARDO AGUILERA LOPEZ, Defendant and Appellant.

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, No. 2SR01499 San Fernando Trial Court, Lesley C. Green, Judge.

Frederick A. Hurst for Defendant and Appellant.

Carmen A. Trutanich, City Attorney, Debbie Lew, Assistant City Attorney, and John R. Winandy, Deputy City Attorney, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

KEOSIAN, J.

INTRODUCTION

Defendant Ricardo Aguilera Lopez appeals his judgment of conviction under Vehicle Code sections 20002, subdivision (a)[1] (count 1) and 14601.2, subdivision (a) (count 2), failure to stop at the scene of an accident and driving with a suspended license, respectively. In this timely appeal, defendant contends that the trial court erred in denying his motion to dismiss under section 41500; that the court’s imposition of fines, fees, and assessments was vague and ambiguous; and that the court impermissibly made payment of the criminal conviction fee and court operations assessment a condition of probation. We affirm the judgment of conviction and remand the case for sentencing consistent with this opinion.

BACKGROUND

After being charged with the aforementioned violations, defendant moved to dismiss both counts pursuant to section 41500, which bans prosecution of nonfelony motor vehicle charges pending at the time the defendant is committed to state prison. The court denied the motion and found defendant guilty on both counts.

The court also found that defendant was in violation of probation ordered in the prior case wherein he had been sentenced to 16 months in county jail for driving under the influence. On count 1, the court suspended imposition of sentence and placed defendant on probation for 36 months on various terms and conditions, including that he “pay the court’s fees” by March 26, 2013. As to count 2, imposition of sentence was suspended and defendant was placed on summary probation for 36 months and ordered to pay “$60 or so for the second conviction, ... added to the fees also due by March 26th.” This timely appeal followed.

DISCUSSION

Motion to dismiss

Defendant contends that the judgment of conviction should be reversed because the court erred in denying his motion to dismiss count 1 and count 2 pursuant to section 41500, subdivision (a), which provides that “[n]o person shall be subject to prosecution for any nonfelony offense arising out of the operation of a motor vehicle... which is pending against him at the time of his commitment to the custody of the Director of Corrections....” The trial court denied the motion on the basis that the statute did not apply to defendant as he was not committed to the Department of Prisons at the time of the prosecution of this misdemeanor case. He had been sentenced to county jail.[2]

We agree with the trial court’s interpretation of the statute. “Statutory construction begins with the plain, commonsense meaning of the words in the statute, ‘“because it is generally the most reliable indicator of legislative intent and purpose.”’ [Citation.] ‘When the language of a statute is clear, we need go no further.’ [Citation.]” (People v. Manzo (2012) 53 Cal.4th 880, 885.) In this case, the language of the statute is clear as it only refers to “commitment to the custody of the Director of Corrections.”

Defendant argues that even though he had been sentenced to county jail and not committed to the “custody of the Director of Corrections, ” the statute should still apply to him under the equal protection clauses of the state and federal Constitutions. (Cal. Const., art. I, § 7, subd. (a); U.S. Const., 14th Amend.) “Broadly stated, equal protection of the laws means ‘that no person or class of persons shall be denied the same protection of the laws which is enjoyed by other persons or other classes in like circumstances in ...


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