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People v. Pina

Superior Court of California, Appellate Division, Los Angeles

June 22, 2017

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
VINCENT PINA, Defendant and Appellant.

         Appeal from a Judgment of the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, Long Beach Trial Court No. 6LB03096, Halim Dhanidina, Judge. Reversed.

          Medvei Law Group and Sebastian M. Medvei for Defendant and Appellant.

          No appearance for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

          RICCIARDULLI, J.

         INTRODUCTION

         We hold here Vehicle Code section 22520.5, subdivision (a), which makes it a crime to “solicit, display, sell, offer for sale, or otherwise vend or attempt to vend any merchandise or service” in designated locations on and near freeway on-ramps and off-ramps, does not prohibit begging or panhandling.

         Defendant Vincent Pina appeals the judgment following his conviction of violating Vehicle Code section 22520.5, subdivision (a), contending there was insufficient evidence presented at trial that he violated the statute. He further contends the statute violated his First Amendment rights. The People have not filed a brief disputing defendant's position. As discussed below, we agree with defendant's first contention, and reverse solely on that basis.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         Defendant was originally charged with a misdemeanor violation of Vehicle Code section 22520.5, subdivision (a). The court reduced the offense to an infraction on the People's motion, and the matter proceeded to a court trial.

         City of Long Beach Police Officer Michael Demarco testified that, on June 10, 2016, he was in a patrol vehicle, exiting the 405 Freeway at the Bellflower off-ramp. Demarco noticed cars were stopped and traffic had built up on the off-ramp. A person, subsequently identified as defendant, was walking in lanes of traffic on the freeway off-ramp accepting money from motorists whose vehicles were stopped for the red light. In one instance, defendant walked up to a vehicle, accepted money from a driver, put the money in his pants pocket, and returned to the curb.

         Demarco drove up to defendant, who was sitting on the curb of the off-ramp. Defendant was holding a sign that said, “Lost my job. Lost my home. Lost my car. Please pray for me and my family. Thank you. God bless.” Demarco ordered defendant to exit the off-ramp, but defendant refused, asserting his right to stay. Demarco arrested defendant for panhandling on the freeway off-ramp, and found $51.35 in dollar bills and change in his front pocket.

         The court found defendant guilty of violating Vehicle Code section 22520.5, subdivision (a). The court ordered defendant to pay a fine which, when penalty assessments and other fees were added, amounted to $530.

         DISCUSSION

         Defendant's ...


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