Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Thursday, December 18, 2008


Page 1


S.C. to Decide Whether Bicycle Footrest Was ‘Metal Knuckles’


By a MetNews Staff Writer


The California Supreme Court yesterday agreed to decide whether possession of a bicycle footrest, with intent to use it as a weapon, violates the statute proscribing possession of “metal knuckles.”

By a vote of 5-2, the justices, at their weekly conference in San Francisco, voted to review a ruling of this district’s Court of Appeal, Div. Five, affirming a juvenile court ruling adjudging a local youth to be a ward of the court for possessing metal knuckles in violation of Penal Code Sec. 12020 and possessing a weapon on school grounds in violation of Sec. 626.10(a).

Chief Justice Ronald M. George and Justices Joyce L. Kennard, Kathryn M. Werdegar, Ming Chin and Carol Corrigan voted to grant review in In re David V., 166 Cal.App.4th 801, decided Sept. 8. Justices Carlos Moreno and Marvin Baxter voted to deny review.

Officer’s Testimony

Div. Five upheld Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Fred Fujioka’s finding that David V., as he was identified in the opinion, minor possessed “metal knuckles,” based on a police officer’s testimony that gang members often use bicycle footrests similar to the one he found in the minor’s pocket as weapons.

Concluding that the Legislature intended the statute defining metal knuckles as a weapon “worn…in or on the hand” to reach objects held in a closed fist, as well as those that can be attached to the hand, Div. Five said Fujioka could reasonably have concluded that the minor was carrying the footrest as a weapon, and not with the general intent of using it for its intended purpose, based on the officer’s testimony that there was no means of affixing the footrest to the bicycle the minor was riding when stopped.

The minor was charged with after the officer stopped him and recovered the footrest—which was a cylindrical object, approximately three and a half inches long and an inch and a half in diameter, and designed for attachment to a bicycle—from the minor’s rear pants pocket.

Testifying that there were no other footrests already attached to the bicycle, the officer said that he could neither secure the footrest to the bicycle, even though the system of attachment appeared fairly basic, nor could he find a place where it could be attached.

The officer, who was presented at trial as a gang expert, also testified that bicycle footrests are commonly used as metal knuckles, explaining that, with the cylindrical object placed in the hand with the fingers rolled over it, it can be used “as an impact punching device to further the effect of punching.”

Justice Orville A. Armstrong said there was sufficient evidence to uphold those determinations.

‘On the Hand’

Rejecting the minor’s contention that the statute’s use of the word “worn” required a showing that the metal knuckles were affixed to the hand, Armstrong noted:

“If appellant were correct that an object must be attached to the hand to be metal knuckles, metal knuckles could always be defined as objects worn ‘on the hand.’ There would be no need for the alternative definition placing metal knuckles ‘in…the hand.’”

Armstrong also wrote that Fujioka could reasonably have concluded that the minor had been carrying a footrest as a weapon, and not with the general intent of using it for its intended purpose, based on the officer’s testimony.

Presiding Justice Paul Turner and Justice Sandy R. Kriegler joined Armstrong in his opinion.

In other conference action, the justices:

•Rejected an animal rights group’s petition for review of a decision of this district’s Div. One upholding West Hollywood’s ban on “mobile billboard” advertising and its application to politically oriented speech. 

The plaintiff, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness, or SHARK, sought to promote itself via a vehicle the group calls the “Tiger.” The Tiger is a truck with 100-inch video screens mounted on the front, back, and sides of the vehicle and LED message signs.

The screens depict images of animals being injured or killed by humans, while the LED signs proclaim messages protesting animal cruelty. The truck also broadcasts the cries of the animals being abused.

The challenge arose after a code enforcement officer issued a citation to the group’s president for driving the truck down Santa Monica Boulevard at 11:45 p.m. Steve Hindi said he was trying to publicize entertainer Hilary Duff’s involvement in bullfights and rodeos and the animal cruelty involved in such events, and unsuccessfully contended that the ordinance cannot be applied to non-commercial speech.

The case is Showing Animals Respect and Kindness v. City of West Hollywood, 166 Cal.App.4th 815.

•Declined to review a ruling by this district’s Div. Three upholding the sale, by the City of Los Angeles, of the so-called LANCER property in South Central Los Angeles. The ruling was challenged by a group representing more than 400 farmers who had operated a community garden on the site.

The ruling was contained in an unpublished Sept. 30 opinion, South Central Farmers Feeding Families v. City of Los Angeles, B195906.


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