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People v. Veamatahau

California Court of Appeals, First District, First Division

May 31, 2018

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
JOSEPH VEAMATAHAU, Defendant and Appellant.

         CERTIFIED FOR PARTIAL PUBLICATION[*]

          San Mateo County Superior Court No. SF398877A Hon. Barbara J. Mallach Trial Judge

          Avatar Legal, Cynthia M. Jones, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Jeffrey M. Laurence, Assistant Attorney General, Eric D. Share and Huy T. Luong, Deputy Attorneys General for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          Margulies, J.

         After a jury trial, defendant was convicted of, among other things, two misdemeanor counts of possession of personal identifying information and possession of a controlled substance, alprazolam (Xanax). On appeal, he argues the trial court erroneously denied his motion to dismiss both charges under Penal Code section 1118.1. He further contends his controlled substance possession conviction must be reversed because the prosecution's expert conveyed inadmissible, case-specific hearsay to the jury.

         In the published portion of this opinion, we conclude the prosecution's expert's testimony that he relied on a database to determine the contents of the pills found on defendant's person was not case-specific hearsay under state law. We affirm the judgment.

         I. BACKGROUND

         On November 19, 2015, the district attorney filed an information charging defendant with six felonies and three misdemeanors.[1] As relevant to this appeal, defendant was charged with misdemeanor possession of personal identifying information (Pen. Code, [2] § 530.5, subd. (c)(1); count 7) and misdemeanor possession of alprazolam (Xanax) (Health & Saf. Code, § 11375, subd. (b)(2); count 8).

         On June 6, 2015, police sergeant Clint Simmont pulled defendant over in his vehicle for making a right turn from a stop sign without signaling. Sergeant Simmont searched defendant and his car. He found a cellophane wrapper containing 10 pills in defendant's coin pocket, and 5 personal checks in his back pocket. Officers also found cocaine base in the pocket of the driver's door. Defendant was arrested and transported to the police station.

         At the police station, defendant provided a statement to Sergeant Simmont, which was played for the jury at trial. In his statement, defendant said he takes four or five of the “Xanibar” pills found on his person every day, “[u]ntil [he] feel[s] good.” As to the checks found in his back pocket, defendant said he found them on the sidewalk and was going to “see what [he] could do with 'em.” He said he would try to cash them, but he doubted it would work because his name was not on them. Defendant said he did not know who signed the back of the checks, and he “found 'em like that.”

         After trial, a jury found defendant guilty on four felony counts and counts 7 and 8. The trial court suspended imposition of sentence on defendant's felony counts and placed him on three years of formal probation with one year of local custody. The court imposed concurrent 90-day jail terms for counts 7 and 8.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A. Possession of Personal Identifying Information

         After the close of the prosecution's case, defendant moved under section 1118.1 to dismiss count 7 for possession of personally identifying information because there was no “information or... evidence with respect to the individuals, whether they're real people, whether they gave consent.... The only evidence is that he possessed these checks.” The trial court denied the motion.

         We review “the denial of a section 1118.1 motion under the standard employed in reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction. [Citation.] ‘In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, .... we “examine the whole record in the light most favorable to the judgment to determine whether it discloses substantial evidence-evidence that is reasonable, credible and of solid value-such that a reasonable trier of fact could find the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” [Citations.] We presume in support of the judgment the existence of every fact the trier could reasonably deduce from the evidence.' ” (People v. Houston (2012) 54 Cal.4th 1186, ...


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