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People v. Chubbuck

California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, Second Division

November 12, 2019

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
v.
JHYY DEMOND CHUBBUCK, Defendant and Appellant.

          APPEAL from the Superior Court of San Bernardino County No. FVI18001366. John M. Tomberlin, Judge. Affirmed with directions.

          Richard Power, under appointment by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

          Xavier Becerra, Attorney General, Gerald A. Engler, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Julie L. Garland, Assistant Attorney General, and Steve Oetting and Daniel J. Hilton, Deputy Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.

          OPINION

          FIELDS J.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         Defendant and appellant, Jhyy Demond Chubbuck, [1] was convicted by a jury of one count of unlawful taking or driving a vehicle. (Veh. Code, § 10851, subd. (a).) In a bifurcated proceeding, the trial court found defendant had suffered a strike prior pursuant to Penal Code sections 667, subdivisions (b) through (i) and 1170.12, subdivisions (a) through (d), as well as a prison prior pursuant to Penal Code section 667.5, subdivision (b). Defendant was sentenced to three years, doubled for the strike prior, and an additional one year for the prison prior, for a total of seven years in state prison.

         On appeal, defendant contends: (1) his conviction must be overturned because the motorized equipment he allegedly drove or took does not qualify as a “vehicle” under Vehicle Code section 10851; (2) the jury's verdict finding that he “took” or “drove” a vehicle in violation of Vehicle Code section 10851 is not supported by substantial evidence; and (3) the trial court's finding that he suffered an offense qualifying as a strike under Penal Code sections 1170.12 and 667, subdivisions (b) through (i) is not supported by substantial evidence. We affirm the judgment.

         II. FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         A. Facts and Charges

         On May 20, 2018, police responded to a report of an unauthorized individual driving within the storage yard of a business in Hesperia. When the police arrived at the scene, they discovered defendant inside a motorized device used to move shipping containers within the storage yard. Defendant was arrested and subsequently charged in an amended information with one count of unlawful taking or driving of a vehicle in violation of Vehicle Code section 10851. The amended information further alleged that defendant had a previous conviction in the United States District Court in Tennessee which qualified as a strike warranting a sentence enhancement under Penal Code sections 1170.12 and 667, subdivisions (b) through (i).

         B. Prosecution Evidence

         An employee testified that the storage yard of the business is a large lot used to store horse feed. He was working in the early morning of May 20, 2018, as a security guard stationed in the business's office located at the main entrance to the storage yard. At the time, all the entrances to the storage yard were locked and he was the only individual working on the premises. At approximately 3:52 a.m., he heard a noise, looked out the window and observed someone attempting to climb into one of the pieces of motorized equipment parked in the storage yard. He described the equipment as a “truck.” He heard the truck's engine start and observed the truck drive around the yard for approximately 10 to 15 minutes before coming to a stop. The employee called a coworker to report the incident. On cross-examination, the employee admitted his view of the truck was obscured during part of the 10 or 15 minutes that he claimed to observe it driving around the yard.

         A manager for the business testified that the general hours employees work in the business's storage yard are between 8:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., with one guard stationed overnight. In the early morning of May 20, 2018, an employee called him to report an incident in the storage yard. The manager arrived at the storage yard at the same time as police officers, opened the gate to the yard for the officers, and observed the officers remove an individual from the cabin of a motorized piece of equipment in the yard. He described the equipment as a “yard goat, ” explained that it was a utility device used to transport shipping containers, and described it as a type of vehicle which could be used to haul shipping containers on a highway. However, this specific device was only used to move shipping containers within the business's storage yard and the business did not have a license for its use on public streets. Only the manager and one other employee had permission to drive the equipment and the manager did not give anyone else permission to drive the equipment on the date of the incident.

         A deputy sheriff for the San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department testified that she was working on patrol on May 20, 2018, when she was called to respond to a report of an unauthorized individual driving a vehicle inside a storage lot. When the deputy and her partner arrived at the scene, the manager of the business unlocked the gates to let them in, and they made contact with a security guard who directed them to a white vehicle parked in the storage yard. The deputy and her partner approached the vehicle, opened the driver's side door to the vehicle, discovered defendant inside, and detained defendant. She did not observe anyone exit the vehicle as they approached.

         C. Defense Evidence

         Defendant testified that he was in Hesperia on May 19, 2018, visiting his parents. He had walked to a liquor store that evening and purchased vodka and Gatorade. He met two females outside the liquor store and they began drinking, eventually making their way to a nearby club or bar. He left the bar after he ran out of money, but became disoriented while attempting to return to his parent's home. Eventually, defendant made his way through an opening in a fence and climbed into the cabin of a piece of equipment parked on the other side of the fence. Defendant described the equipment as a “semi, ” an “18 wheeler, ” and a type of vehicle used to haul trailers on roads. Defendant testified that he went to sleep once he entered the vehicle, but at some point woke up and started the ignition. However, defendant denied putting the vehicle into gear and denied driving the vehicle for 10 or 15 minutes around the lot.

         D. Bifurcated Proceedings and Sentencing

         The allegations of defendant's prior strike offense and prior prison sentence were tried in a bifurcated proceeding. The People alleged that defendant's prior conviction in the United States District Court in Tennessee for a violation of title 18 United States Code section 1951, accompanied by a firearm enhancement pursuant to title 18 United States Code section 924(c), qualified as a strike warranting a sentence enhancement under Penal Code sections 1170.12 and 667, subdivisions (b) through (i). The People presented a packet of documents marked as exhibit 5 and called a special assistant to the United States Attorney to testify and explain various aspects of the documents. Exhibit 5 was described as “a certified document that contains multiple different documents, ” including a complaint, plea agreement, court minutes, and records from the United States penitentiary in Victorville. At the conclusion of the special assistant's testimony, exhibit 5 was admitted into evidence without objection.

         Defendant did not contest the fact of his conviction, but argued that the conviction did not qualify as a strike under Penal Code section 667, subdivisions (b) through (i). The trial court found that the prior conviction qualified as a strike. Defendant was sentenced to three years, doubled for a strike prior, ...


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