California Government Code Section 945.3 - Interpretation

In Mohlmann v. City of Burbank (1986) 179 Cal. App. 3d 1037, 225 Cal. Rptr. 109, the 1981 version of Government Code section 945.3 provided that a person charged with a crime could not bring a civil action against a peace officer or the officer's public agency while the charges against the accused were pending in court. The statute also provided that any applicable statute of limitations for filing civil actions was tolled during the period the criminal charges were pending. In 1983, the statute was amended to provide that "nothing in this section shall prohibit the filing of a claim with the board of a public entity, and this section shall not extend the time within which a claim is required to be presented pursuant to Section 911.2." (Mohlmann, supra, 179 Cal. App. 3d at p. 1043.) The plaintiff's government claim was timely filed under the 1981 version of the statute, but arguably six months too late under the 1983 version. On appeal, the court held that there was an ambiguity in the 1981 version of the Tort Claims Act as to whether the ban on instituting a civil action tolled the 100-day period for filing a claim with a governmental entity. The 1983 legislation, which did not become effective until after the plaintiff's complaint was filed, did more than clarify the date for filing of the claim under Government Code section 911.2. It terminated the ambiguity in the 1981 version, and constituted a change in the law rather than a mere "clarification." (Mohlmann, supra, 179 Cal. App. 3d at pp. 1044-1045.)