People v. Verlinde

In People v. Verlinde (2002) 100 Cal.App.4th 1146, the defendant, Wendy Verlinde, spent a night out drinking with friends in Tijuana. There they met Mark Vessells and offered him a ride home to Los Angeles. (Verlinde, supra, 100 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1154-1155.) On the way home to Los Angeles, Verlinde operated the stick shift and pedals while Vessells steered the car. Vessells eventually fell asleep and Verlinde took over the steering wheel. Verlinde crashed the car near Encinitas, resulting in the death of one of her passengers and injuries to her other passengers, including Vessells. (Id. at pp. 1155-1157.) She was convicted of several offenses, including DUI and causing injury to two persons (Veh. Code, 23153, subd. (a)) and driving with a BAC of over 0.08 percent and causing injury to two persons (Veh. Code, 23153, subd. (b)). (Verlinde, supra, at p. 1154.) The jury also found she personally inflicted GBI on two persons within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.7, subdivision (a). (Verlinde, supra, at p. 1154.) On appeal, Verlinde challenged the constitutionality of section 12022.7, subdivision (a), as amended in 1995, on due process grounds. Prior to January 1, 1996, the statute read, in pertinent part: "Any person who, with the intent to inflict the injury, personally inflicts great bodily injury ... ." (Stats. 1994, ch. 873, 3, p. 4427) The statute was amended effective January 1, 1996, to delete the "with the intent to inflict the injury" language. (Stats. 1995, ch. 341, 1, p. 1851.) Verlinde claimed the amended statute, which was operative at the time of her crimes, violated her due process rights because it "in effect authorized strict liability for a great bodily injury enhancement regardless of the state of mind of the defendant or the degree of foreseeability of the injury because the enhancement liability is unrelated to the defendant's mental state and the defendant's act." (Verlinde, supra, 100 Cal.App.4th at p. 1166.) The Verlinde court disagreed, reasoning that the amended statute comported with due process because the deletion of "with the intent to inflict the injury" language "changed the statute from a specific intent to a general intent enhancement," and thus the "Legislature did not ignore the mens rea requirement by amending the statute." (Id. at pp. 1166-1167.)