The Supreme Court today holds the defendant in People v. Moses can be convicted under a statute that was enacted by Proposition 35 to proscribe completed and attempted human trafficking of a minor even though the “minor” he solicited was in fact an adult undercover police officer. If attempted trafficking requires an actual minor victim, as the defendant claimed, punishment would be less under a general statute providing sentences for not-otherwise-specified attempted crimes of one half the term imposed for the completed offense. The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan concludes that the trafficking target need not be a minor and that the statute intends “that human trafficking of a minor, whether successfully completed or merely attempted, is to be punished in a uniform way.”
The defendant does, however, get a chance to pursue an instructional error claim in the Court of Appeal on remand.
The Supreme Court’s opinion includes a discussion of the law of attempt, explaining that it’s no defense that actual accomplishment of a crime was impossible. Or, as the opinion puts it, the defendant “cannot find safe harbor in his own ineptitude.”
The court reverses a divided Fourth District, Division Three, Court of Appeal and it approves of a divided 2020 opinion by a different panel of the same appellate court. It disapproves a 2018 decision by the First District, Division Four.