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F 18.03 n1 Failure To Appear: Unconstitutional Presumption From Failure To Appear Within 14 Days (PC 1320(b)).
The statute provides that “it shall be presumed that a defendant who willfully fails to appear within 14 days of the date assigned for his or her appearance intended to evade the process of the court.” This language directs the jury to make a conclusive presumption of an element of the charged offense (specific intent to evade the process of the court) upon finding of a predicate fact (appellant’s failure to appear within 14 days). Therefore, the statute unconstitutionally violates the defendant’s 6th and 14th Amendment rights to due process and trial by jury in which the prosecution is required to prove every element of the crimes charged beyond a reasonable doubt. (See People v. Figueroa (86) 41 C3d 714, 724-26 [224 CR 719]; see also Powell v. Galaza (9th Cir. 2002) 282 F3d 1089, 1095-96 [trial court’s midtrial instruction that defendant’s testimony was “an admission that he intended to evade the court process” was essentially a directed verdict for the state in violation of the 14th Amendment].) Such an instruction has been held to be unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. (Carella v. California (89) 491 US 263, 265-67 [105 LEd2d 218; 109 SCt 2419] [presumption that failure to return rental car within 21 days established larcenous intent].)
In People v. Forrester (94) 30 CA4th 1697, 1701 [37 CR2d 19], it was held, as recommended by FORECITE, that the presumption specified in PC 1320(b) that a defendant who did not appear within 14 days intended to evade the process of the court, creates an unconstitutional presumption.
In (People v. Peterson UNPUBLISHED (AO50817), the First District Court of Appeal held that instruction upon this presumption was reversible error. The attorney general conceded error in Peterson and argued that it was harmless. The court of appeal, applying the Carella standard, held that “the fact that appellant did not appear within 14 days of his scheduled appearance date was not, by itself, so probative of the nature of his intent … that any rational trier of fact would necessarily have found that he specifically intended to evade the process of the court.” [FORECITE subscribers may obtain a free copy of the Peterson opinion by contacting the FORECITE office. Ask for Opinion Bank # O-138.]
F 18.03 n2 Failure To Appear: Requirement Of Specific Intent To Evade Process Of The Court.
PC 1320(a) requires as an element of the crime a specific intent to evade the process of the court. (See People v. Forrester (94) 30 CA4th 1697, 1701 [37 CR2d 19]; see also People v. Sutton (93) 19 CA4th 795, 799-800, 805 [23 CR2d 632]; People v. Wesley (88) 198 CA3d 519, 522-24 [243 CR2d 785].)