‘Booster Bag’ Not a Burglary Tool, Court Rules

When a shoplifter stoops to stealing clothes, you gotta feel a little sorry for him or her.

And when he falls to the ground convulsing, it’s almost a tragedy. But when it turns out he used a special bag to get the merchandise through electronic sensors, that’s a different story.

And so a jury convicted the California man of burglary, grand theft, and possessing burglary tools. The Second District Court of Appeal reversed the “tools” conviction, but compassion had nothing to do with it.

Burglary Tools

Penal Code Section 446 includes items used to gain access into property, but some courts disagree whether that applies to tools used after a would-be criminal gets inside a property. The state Supreme Court is considering the question in In re H.W.

In the meantime, Linda — a transgender man who goes by the name James — strolled into a Macy’s department store, put a stack of jeans into a bag and walked out. A security guard witnessed the theft, and chased him down.

Shaw resisted, fell to the ground and started convulsing. Security took the bag, which had 11 pairs of True Religion jeans inside a secondary bag lined with foil.

At trial, the guard testified that the foil-lined bag — called a “booster bag” — was used to trick electronic sensors. Shaw was convicted of all charges and placed on probation for two years.

Booster Bag

In People v. Linda Shaw, the defendant argued that the booster bag was not a tool under the statute. The Second District agreed.

The appeals court disagreed with the Third District decision in H.W., which said a pair of pliers used to cut security tags off a pair of jeans was a burglary tool. Instead, the justices followed People v. Diaz.

“We find the reasoning of Diaz to be more persuasive, and we agree with its holding that an ‘instrument or tool’ under section 466 is an item intended for use ‘to break into or gain access to property,’ not just intended for ‘use during the course of a burglary,” the panel said.

New California Laws Ease Fines, Punishment for Juveniles

California Gov. Jerry Brown signed 11 crime bills aimed at lowering fines and punishments for juveniles and other offenders.

Most of the legislation helps young people charged with crimes, including one bill that limits counties and cities from collecting fees from families with children in juvenile detention. Parents and guardians will no longer be charged for juvenile hall expenses, such as housing, food, drugs, tests, and transportation.

Lawmakers said juvenile penalties and fines have mostly affected low-income and minority families. The legislation follows a recent pattern in the Golden State to help people who are “paying more for being poor.”

Court: Ankle Monitor Data Is Not Hearsay

Little did we know that robots found a way around hearsay decades ago.

Judge Thomas Hastings knew it then. He was pondering a hearsay objection to computer records being offered into evidence.

“This is a very hypertechnical objection,” he said in People v. Hawkins. “[T]he problem in this analysis is simply this: There is no declarant. The declarant is the computer. It’s not a person.”

Records admitted, and that’s how computers first got around the hearsay rule. Now they have taken another step in People v. Rodriguez.

Parents can lose custody of troubled children despite no finding of fault: California Supreme Court

In an appeal involving a teenage girl who repeatedly ran away from home and gave birth to two children, the California Supreme Court ruled Thursday that juveniles can be removed from parental custody, even if there’s not a failure to supervise the child or no finding of neglect.

A California law allows children to be placed in state custody if it’s found that they’re at risk for serious harm as a result of the failure of their parents to supervise and protect them, the Associated Press reports. The unanimous ruling by the state supreme court found it doesn’t matter whether the parents neglected their children, or are to blame for not protecting them.

According to the opinion (PDF), the child, identified as R.T., was born in 1996, and started running away from home at the age of 14 and would not attend school. She falsely reported that her mother, identified as Lisa E. abused her. R.T. gave birth to one child when she was 15 and eventually had a second child, the opinion states.

R.T.’s mother sought help from the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services and law enforcement, according to the opinion, and later arranged for R.T. to live with her maternal grandparents. The grandfather previously worked with troubled youth, the opinion notes. R.T., who according to the opinion struggled with anger management issues, threw a chair at her grandfather.

The state in 2014 filed a petition to take custody of R.T., who was then 17. The court granted the petition and R.T. were initially placed elsewhere before going back to her grandparents’ custody. Her mother appealed, and an appellate court ruling upheld the lower court order.

“In arguing that dependency jurisdiction over R.T. was not warranted, the mother insists she was not at fault or blameworthy because she did everything possible to control R.T.‘s incorrigible behavior. We do not disagree — the record reveals her concerted (and at times desperate) efforts to protect and discipline R.T.,” the supreme court opinion states.“The record supports that R.T. faced an ongoing risk of harm based on her increasingly self-destructive behavior, behavior that mother simply could not control.”

Writer’s ‘awful’ prenup experience actually shows value of lawyers, law prof says

For Abby Mims, a prenup agreement was a humiliating experience that was still helpful because it gave her fiancé reassurance that his money would be protected.

Northwestern University law professor Steven Lubet has another take on the agreement. Though Mims failed to appreciate her lawyer’s work, he protected his client by insisting that the agreement be changed.

“For lawyers,” Lubet writes in the Chicago Tribune, “it is better to be blamed now than cursed later.”

In her Modern Love column for the New York Times, Mims says the prenup experience was “nothing short of awful.” She was embarrassed to disclose her meager financial situation to her lawyer, and didn’t want to change the agreement when he suggested it.

Mims had only $3,500 in savings and a Toyota Yaris on which she still owed $4,000 when her fiancé, Matt, asked her to sign a prenup. Matt had a career in finance and had “saved and saved, amassing an amount that he hadn’t disclosed to anyone,” Mims reveals.

Mims was happy with the agreement. “The agreement was essentially California law on paper if we ever left the state, which I understood to mean that if we were to divorce, we would leave the marriage with what we had brought into it and divide the rest,” Mims writes. “That seemed fair to me. We were in our 40s, not our 20s, and he was the one with assets to lose.”

But the lawyer had an objection to a clause that would bar Mims from getting her fair share if they were to sell their house. She confesses she was beginning to hate her lawyer as he rattled off figures. “When I left the lawyer’s office that day, I felt miserable and unmoored,” Mims says. She was sobbing when she called Matt and told him what happened.

Matt suggested they forget about the lawyers and just sign the agreement. Mims called her lawyer and told him their plans. “He advised against,” she said, “citing the troublesome house-sale clause.” The lawyer later negotiated a change in the language.

Mims ultimately saw the process as helpful because it removed money conflicts from their relationship. Lubet, however, is more skeptical of Matt, suggesting that his encouragement to sign the agreement “was disingenuous at best.”

“Abby and Matt have now been married for two years,” Lubet writes. “It seems that they no longer argue about money, with Matt having sequestered his personal funds and Abby trusting that the whole ordeal will turn out to have been unnecessary. …

“But if things ultimately do implode, well, Abby will at least get half of the house,” he writes.