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Schmidt v. California Highway Patrol

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

August 1, 2016

JOHN J. SCHMIDT, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
CALIFORNIA HIGHWAY PATROL, Defendant and Appellant.

         Superior Court County of Santa Barbara, No. 1385226, Thomas P. Anderle, Judge.

          Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Chris A. Knudsen, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Kenneth C. Jones, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, and Nancy G. James, Deputy Attorney General, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Law Office of Robin L. Unander and Robin L. Unander; Law Offices of William C. Makler, P.C., and William C. Makler for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          GILBERT, P.J.

         Penal Code section 849.5 provides that if a person is arrested and released and no accusatory pleading is filed, the arrest shall be deemed a detention only.[1] Section 851.6, subdivision (b) provides that the arresting law enforcement agency shall issue the person a certificate describing the action as a detention. Subdivision (d) of the section provides that the official criminal records shall delete any reference to an arrest and refer to the action as a detention. The California Highway Patrol (CHP) does not comply with sections 849.5 and 851.6.

         John J. Schmidt brought a class action against the CHP for a writ of mandate to compel the CHP to comply. The trial court certified the class and granted Schmidt’s writ petition. The court also awarded Schmidt attorney fees pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure section 1021.5, the private attorney general statute. We affirm.

         FACTS

         On May 1, 2011, Schmidt was arrested by the CHP for driving under the influence. He was booked into the Santa Barbara County jail and released later that day on his own recognizance. Schmidt signed a notice to appear in court.

         The CHP sent Schmidt’s arrest report to the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s Office. The district attorney reviewed the referral and decided not to file charges “at this time.”

         The CHP did not provide Schmidt with a certificate describing his arrest as a detention. (§ 851.6, subd. (b).) Nor did the CHP report the arrest as a detention to the Department of Justice.

         CLASS ACTION

         Schmidt brought this action against the CHP on behalf of himself and all persons similarly situated. The action sought a writ of mandate to compel the CHP to comply with sections 849.5 and 851.6, subdivision (b).

         Over the CHP’s objection, the trial court certified the class as follows: “‘Any and all individuals who were arrested by the California Highway Patrol in Santa Barbara County and taken into custody and booked between June 1, 2009 and the present, who were released from custody, who did not have an accusatory pleading related to the arrest filed against them in the Santa Barbara County Superior Court, who did not receive a certificate of detention from the California Highway Patrol, and who did not receive a disposition noting the action was a detention only on their criminal records maintained by the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Justice.’”

         The CHP moved for summary judgment. The trial court denied the motion and the matter proceeded to a court trial.

         Schmidt testified that he was arrested for a driving under the influence offense. Schmidt was taken to jail and released the next day. He was not prosecuted; he was not given notice that his arrest be considered a detention; and his criminal history was not updated.

         Santa Barbara Senior Deputy District Attorney Lee Carter testified that he is the filing deputy for his office. He determines whether a case should be filed. He said that neither he nor anyone acting on behalf of his office filed an “accusatory pleading” against Schmidt.

         Susan Segura testified that she has been the records supervisor for the Santa Barbara Police Department for 16 years. She testified to her office’s procedure when the police department refers a case to the district attorney and the district attorney’s office sends notice to the police department that the case has been rejected.

         “[Segura:] We apply our local procedure which is to update our files to indicate that the arrest is now considered a detention. It’s no longer considered an arrest. So we do update our files to reflect that information. We also prepare the detention certificate to send to the person that was arrested.

         [Schmidt’s counsel:] How do you describe, please, how you reflect the event as a detention?

         “[Segura:] In our local records management system, we have a module for arrest. We update the module for arrest with the status of detention only. We also stamp any paper arrest with the detention stamp.”

         Segura testified that this policy is consistent with the industry standard.

         The trial court found Segura’s testimony persuasive and stated that Schmidt should have been issued a certificate of detention by the CHP.

         The trial court determined that the term “released” in sections 849.5 and 851.6 means released from custody, which may include a notice to appear in court. The term “accusatory pleading” may include a notice to appear, but only when filed with the court. The term “filed” means filed with the court, not the prosecuting agency.

         WRIT ...


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