Posted On: December 22, 2013 by Mary Frances Prevost

California Appeal Court Strikes Down Criminal Statutes for Vagueness

The 5th District Court of Appeal issued an opinion in Parker v. State of California last month upholding the trial court’s finding that three criminal state statutes were unconstitutional vague in violation of due process. (Fifth Appellate District, Case Nos. F062490, F062709 Fresno County Superior Court, Case No. 10CECG02116).

The statutes that would have restricted the sale of ammunition, but have been enjoined to prevent arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. The panel’s 41-page published opinion clarifies California’s vagueness doctrine and confirms that criminal laws impacting fundamental rights must provide higher levels of clarity. Thus, they will be found to violate due process protections if they are vague in the “generality” or “majority” of cases – as opposed to every conceivable application. The opinion is an important for potential criminal defendants to prevent against unfair prosecution by ensuring statutes provide fair notice that their actions may result in criminal liability.

This is helpful and timely for my case. I soon will be filing an injunction/request for declaratory relief against the City of San Diego for to strike down its equivilent of the NFL Fan Code of Conduct on Due process ground.

The State of California filed a Petitioned for Review with the California Supreme Court on December 16. Anyone who is interested in seeing the Parker decision upheld may wish to weigh in with an amicus letter asking the Court to decline review. Amicus letters should be submitted as soon as possible. The 5th District’s opinion is extremely comprehensive and well written, and it should be permitted to stand. If the California Supreme Court wishes to weigh in on California’s vagueness doctrine again, it should do so after the Parker decision has percolated in the appellate districts to allow the Court to consider a more comprehensive evaluation of the issues by these courts.

The opinion and State’s Petition for Review are available here: http://michellawyers.com/guncasetracker/parkervcalifornia