Monday, June 28, 2010
Appeals Court Upholds Citizen’s Arrest by 911 Dispatcher
By STEVEN M. ELLIS, Staff Writer
The Fourth District Court of Appeal on Friday upheld a Palm Springs Police Department dispatcher’s citizen’s arrest of a Riverside County man who made more than 40 harassing calls to the woman and other 911 dispatchers in a single evening.
Div. Two held that the arrest of Craig Steven Bloom was lawful where the dispatcher executed a citizen’s arrest complaint form and sent police officers to take Bloom into custody before resuming her work.
Writing for the court, Presiding Justice Manuel A. Ramirez said state law allowing any person to arrest another for committing or attempting to commit a public offense in the person’s presence does not require physical proximity, only that the crime be apparent to the person’s senses. He also rejected Bloom’s argument that a person placing another under citizen’s arrest must physically deliver the defendant to police custody.
Bloom challenged the October 2008 arrest, seeking to suppress evidence that he resisted the police officers sent to take him into custody and inflicted minor injuries on them.
The dispatcher, identified as “Peggy T.,” made the arrest after she received about 20 to 25 calls from a person who had made prior calls identifying himself as “Craig Bloom” or “Attorney Craig Bloom.” The State Bar’s website shows no attorneys by that name. Other dispatchers received approximately 20 more calls from Bloom that night.
The dispatcher said Bloom had made a number of calls in the past in which he used profanity, called the dispatchers obscene names, screamed into the phone and babbled, and that dispatchers began to reject calls displaying Bloom’s telephone number.
On Oct. 6, 2008, the dispatcher said, Bloom began calling from a car wash and a pay phone across the street after dispatchers started hanging up on calls coming from his residence. The dispatcher, concerned that Bloom’s calls were interfering with legitimate emergency calls, executed a citizen’s arrest complaint form and dispatched officers to the location of Bloom’s last call.
A Palm Springs police officer who went there found Bloom talking with other officers. He said Bloom admitted making the calls, but resisted when told he was under citizen’s arrest and fought being handcuffed.
Bloom pleaded guilty to misdemeanor counts of battery on a peace officer, resisting an executive officer in the performance of his duty, and making annoying or harassing calls to 911, but later appealed Riverside Superior Court Judge Jorge C. Hernandez’s decision denying a motion to suppress evidence from the arrest.
He argued that the police officer who took him into custody lacked authority to perform a citizen’s arrest for a misdemeanor offense committed outside of the officer’s presence, and that the dispatcher making the arrest did not sufficiently participate in the arrest to make it a valid citizen’s arrest.
But Ramirez rebuffed both arguments, explaining:
“A telephone is an electronic device that aids a person’s auditory perception, so a person who makes an annoying or harassing call to a 911 dispatcher has committed the crime in the dispatcher’s presence….Here, the misdemeanor offense of making annoying and harassing calls to 911 was made in the dispatcher’s presence because she was personally engaged in the telephone calls. Because the nature of the crime involved the use of a telephone, the ‘presence’ element does not require the dispatcher to leave her post to confront defendant personally in order to effect a citizen’s arrest.”
The justice similarly rejected Bloom’s arguments that the dispatcher waited too long to execute the complaint form and dispatch officers, and that the dispatcher’s participation in the arrest was too limited.
“[R]equiring a private citizen to physically take custody of a defendant and deliver him to the custody of police would be dangerous given defendant’s mental state, and impractical given the dispatcher’s official duties…,” he wrote. “[A] citizen’s duty to ‘deliver [the arrestee] to a peace officer’ may be delegated by executing the citizen’s arrest forms and requesting that a peace officer take the suspect into custody.”
Justices Thomas E. Hollenhorst and Art W. McKinster joined Ramirez in his opinion.
The case is People v. Bloom, E048326.
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