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People v. Cowart

California Court of Appeals, First District, Second Division

July 17, 2015

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
ROBERT ERNEST COWART, Defendant and Appellant.

Trial Court: Superior Court of Sonoma County No. SCR620101 Trial Judge: Hon. Gary A. Medvigy

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[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

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COUNSEL

Dena Marie Young, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Assistant Attorney General, Seth K. Schalit and William M. Kumelis, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

OPINION

MILLER, J.

Penal Code section 1601, subdivision (a) addresses the availability of outpatient medical treatment for a defendant “charged with and found incompetent on a charge of... any felony involving death." We decide in this appeal whether a defendant who allegedly left the scene of a car accident in violation of Vehicle Code section 20001, subdivision (a) was charged with a “felony involving death” when there are no allegations or evidence that the victim’s death resulted from the defendant’s flight from the accident scene.

We conclude that defendant was not charged with a felony involving death. Vehicle Code section 20001 does not criminalize motor vehicle accidents or the injuries resulting from them. “It merely addresses the duties of a driver, however otherwise innocent, once the accident and its attendant injuries have occurred.” (People v. Wood (2000) 83 Cal.App.4th 862, 866 [100 Cal.Rptr.2d 115] (Wood).) We therefore reverse the trial court’s order requiring that defendant be confined pursuant to Penal Code section 1601, subdivision (a) before receiving outpatient treatment.

BACKGROUND

Defendant Robert Ernest Cowart was charged with a single felony count of failing to stop at the scene and report an injury accident in violation of Vehicle Code section 20001, subdivision (a). The complaint was later amended to add a count of misdemeanor vehicular manslaughter in violation of Penal Code section 192, subdivision (c)(2).

Upon a stipulation of the parties, the trial court found defendant incompetent to stand trial. According to a neuropsychological evaluation requested by the district attorney, defendant was suffering from vascular dementia and was not expected to gain competency in the future "unless major strides are made

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in terms of dementia treatment.” Defendant was 68 years of age at the time of the ...


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