By Matthew Torres
WOODLAND, CA – After a day of deliberation here in Yolo County Superior Court, the jury returned late last week with a guilty verdict for Sander Findlay on a charge of unlawful possession of a dirk or dagger—a felony even though the blade is only about two inches long.
The judge and district attorney repeatedly refused to reduce the charges.
In his own testimony last Wednesday, Findlay explained how in his desperation from being “homeless and essentially… destitute” he reached the conclusion that risking arrest by violating the no alcohol clause in his probation “was the only conceivable violation he could think of that didn’t involve actually doing something illegal.”
When police arrived at the Aggie Liquor store in Davis and found Findlay, he made the officers aware that he had a folded knife in his pocket. However, upon searching him officers discovered the knife was open rather than closed, turning a violation of probation into—technically—felony possession of a dirk or dagger.
In a follow-up meeting with counsel and Judge Tom Dyer, Deputy Public Defender John Sage sought to use the necessity defense for Findlay.
DPD Sage explained, “Findlay was trying to be taken into custody because of the hardship he was experiencing for being homeless in the city of Davis on Dec. 24. This was the wintertime. It was extremely cold during that period of time.”
“He’d been in jail before. He knew that on Christmas Day he’d rather be comfortable in jail than freezing and free in the city of Davis. It’s a necessity defense for being in the liquor store and being in possession,” added the PD.
Deputy District Attorney Matthew De Moura rebutted, citing jury instructions CALCRIM No. 3403, the legal definition for necessity, and argued the defense would be “legally insufficient.”
Judge Dyer agreed the necessity defense was not applicable.
Following that rejection, DPD Sage requested a motion to reduce the felony to a misdemeanor considering the size of the knife and other circumstances. “Mr. Findlay testified that he had it in his pocket and wasn’t aware that it was in his pocket fully extended.”
He continued, “He’s learning how to be homeless in the city of West Sacramento and the city of Davis. The first time that he was arrested he was charged with possession of a dirk or dagger. It was a fixed blade knife in his waistband. After (the judge) reduced that charge to a misdemeanor, Findlay was told that you can have a folding knife and it does not constitute possession of a dirk or dagger.”
But, the PD added, “This is just a learning process where you have someone who’s homeless learning what he should or should not have. The blade is about two inches long, it’s about the right size for someone who’s homeless… This could easily be reduced to a misdemeanor.”
Despite DPD Sage’s efforts, the request was denied.