On May 19, 2022, the California Court of Appeal issued a published decision affirming the issuance of an injunction against the City of Los Angeles that prohibits the City from accepting a citizen’s complaint against a peace officer unless the complainant reads and signs the advisory required by Penal Code section 148.6 (a)(2) that filing a knowingly false complaint of peace officer misconduct may result in criminal prosecution. [Click to view Decision]
Penal Code section 148.6 requires complainants to read and sign an advisory informing them of the right to file the complaint, mandatory investigation and records retention requirements, and that it is a misdemeanor for any person to file a knowingly false allegation of police misconduct. Specifically, subdivision (a)(2) of section 148.6 mandates the following warning on civilian complaint forms:
A law enforcement agency accepting an allegation of misconduct against a peace officer shall require the complainant to read and sign the following advisory, all in boldface type:
IT IS AGAINST THE LAW TO MAKE A COMPLAINT THAT YOU KNOW TO BE FALSE. IF YOU MAKE A COMPLAINT AGAINST AN OFFICER KNOWING THAT IT IS FALSE, YOU CAN BE PROSECUTED ON A MISDEMEANOR CHARGE.
The California Legislature enacted section 148.6 in recognition of “the willingness on the part of many less ethical citizens to maliciously file false allegations of misconduct against officers in an effort to punish them for simply doing their jobs.” Section 148.6 was an attempt to curb “rising tide of knowingly false citizen’s complaints of misconduct.”
The City of Los Angeles was temporarily relieved from complying with the citizen complaint advisory warning pending a federal consent decree. After the consent decree expired, the City refused to apply the citizen advisory warning to any citizen complaints. The Los Angeles Police Protective League (“League”) filed a lawsuit and obtained injunctive and declaratory relief against the City. The Superior Court held that Penal Code section 148.6 (a)(2) is valid and enforceable, and that the City and Chief of Police are required to comply with that statutory provision.
The City appealed and argued that enforcement of the citizen advisory warning would impose “an impermissible viewpoint-based speech restriction” in violation of the First Amendment. The League relied upon the California Supreme Court case of People v. Stanistreet (2002) 29 Cal.4th 497, which upheld section 148.6 (a)(2) against a challenge that it impermissibly restricted speech under the First Amendment.
In its recent decision, the Court of Appeal found that the League’s legal contentions were consistent with the California Supreme Court’s analysis in People v. Stanistreet, and that the citizen advisory warning and signature requirements of section 148.6 do not chill constitutionally protected speech. The Court of Appeal concluded that it was not required to follow Chaker v. Crogan (9th Cir. 2005) 428 F.3d1215 as urged by the City “[B]ecause the United States Supreme Court has not ruled section 148.6 or an analogous statute is unconstitutional, we must follow Stanistreet. Therefore, we do, and we affirm.”