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People v. Simpson

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Los Angeles

January 24, 2014

PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
ERIC A. SIMPSON, Defendant and Appellant.

CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION [*]

APPEAL from a judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Metropolitan Trial Court No. B717240, Deborah Christian, Judge.

Erica Simpson, in pro. per., for Defendant and Appellant.

Michael N. Feuer, City Attorney, Debbie Lew, Assistant City Attorney, John R. Winandy, Deputy City Attorney, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

RICCIARDULLI, J.

I. INTRODUCTION

Appellant and defendant Erica Simpson appeals the judgment of conviction following a court trial for crossing double yellow lines into a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane, and for making an unsafe lane change. (Veh. Code, §§ 21655.8, subd. (a), 21658, subd. (a), respectively.) Pursuant to Government Code section 68081, the parties were provided with an opportunity to submit supplemental briefs addressing the issue of whether the trial court violated the separation of powers doctrine or its statutory authority by amending the complaint sua sponte to add the charge of making an unsafe lane change during the trial.

As discussed below in the published portion of this opinion, we reverse the judgment of conviction for making an unsafe lane change. The court did not have authority on its own motion to amend the complaint to add the charge. In the unpublished portions of this opinion, we reject defendant’s arguments that the judgment should be reversed with respect to her conviction for crossing double yellow lines into an HOV lane.

II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

On April 9, 2012, defendant was issued a citation for crossing double yellow lines into an HOV lane in violation of section 21655.8, subdivision (a). Defendant signed a promise to appear in court on or before June 14, 2012. Defendant requested and was provided a trial by written declaration. The ticketing officer submitted a declaration concerning the infraction. After being found guilty, defendant requested a trial de novo.

At the trial de novo on March 11, 2013, Los Angeles Police Department Officer Schoop testified that he observed defendant’s vehicle traveling southbound on the 405 Freeway north of the Avalon exit. Defendant changed lanes in front of the officer into the HOV lane, crossing over a set of clearly visible double yellow lines which were in good repair. Defendant caused Schoop to brake suddenly in order to avoid a traffic collision.

Schoop testified that he originally wrote on the citation that the incident occurred “South of Avalon, ” but prior to defendant signing her promise to appear, he made a correction to the citation indicating that the violation occurred “North of Avalon.” Defendant asked Schoop at trial why he wrote “south” in his declaration, and he responded that he “made a mistake.” Defendant requested that the case be dismissed because her citation stated that the violation occurred south of Avalon, and she prepared her defense relying on the location specified in her citation. The court denied her request, pointing out that the court’s copy of the citation provided that the location of the violation was north of Avalon. The court further stated that the correction on the original citation regarding the location must not have gone through the carbon paper onto defendant’s copy of the citation.

The court told defendant that it was going to find her guilty, and asked Schoop whether defendant’s lane change was unsafe. The officer responded, “Yes.” The court then added the charge of making an unsafe lane change under Vehicle Code section 21658, subdivision (a), and found defendant guilty both of crossing double yellow lines into an HOV lane, and of ...


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