Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

by
Kevin Megown beat Michelle R., the mother of his child. After one incident where Michelle's mother, Maria R., came to aid her, Megown threatened to kill both of them as he held a gun. A jury convicted Megown of violating a domestic violence restraining order, possessing an assault weapon, and inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant. It also found true allegations that he inflicted great bodily injury in circumstances involving domestic violence. The jury acquitted on some counts and could not reach a verdict on several others. Megown was retried on some of the unresolved counts. A second jury convicted Megown of inflicting corporal injury on a cohabitant, three counts each of criminal threats, and assault with a semiautomatic firearm. The trial court sentenced Megown to a total term of 17 years in prison. On appeal, Megown argued the trial court erred by: (1) admitting past uncharged acts of domestic violence under Evidence Code section 1109 with respect to the counts involving Maria; (2) admitting evidence of abuse that occurred more than 10 years before the charged crimes; (3) giving CALCRIM No. 875 (assault with a firearm) without modification; and (4) failing to stay the sentence on one of the criminal threats counts under Penal Code section 654. He also claimed the abstract of judgment should have been amended to accurately reflect the trial court's oral pronouncement and that the cumulative effect of the above errors require reversal. While the Court of Appeal agreed the trial court erred when it failed to stay the sentence on one of the criminal threats counts under Penal Code section 654 and that the abstract of judgment should be corrected, it rejected Megown's other arguments. The matter was remanded for the limited purpose of allowing the trial court to determine whether to strike the firearm enhancements. In all other respects, the convictions were affirmed. View "California v. Megown" on Justia Law

by
A jury found defendant Andrey Yushchuk guilty of second degree "Watson" murder, misdemeanor drunk driving (DUI) and misdemeanor aggravated DUI (over 0.08 percent blood-alcohol content); it acquitted him of felony DUI-with-injury charges. The trial court sentenced defendant to prison for an unstayed term of 15 years to life. On appeal, defendant argued: (1) the trial court erred in denying his motion to acquit at the close of the State's case-in-chief; and (2) the court misinstructed the jury regarding permissive inferences. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Yushchuk" on Justia Law

by
This case was Marc Endsley’s second appeal challenging the denial of his Penal Code section 1026.2 petition for conditional release from the state hospital. Endsley was committed to the state hospital in 1997 after a jury found him not guilty of the first degree murder of his father by reason of insanity (NGI). In his first appeal, he argued the trial court erred by summarily denying his petition without a hearing. In that case, the Court of Appeal agreed Endsley was entitled to a hearing, and in interpreting section 1026.2(l), the Court held the trial court had a duty to procure a recommendation from the state hospital on the appropriateness of release. The trial court obtained the recommendation, held a hearing, and again denied the petition. In this appeal, Endsley challenged the denial of his two prehearing requests, arguing the trial court violated his constitutional rights to testify at his hearing and to the assistance of an independent medical expert. Endsley argued the court erred by ruling on his request to testify remotely without first ensuring the selection of a confinement facility that could “continue [his] program of treatment,” as required by section 1026.2, subdivisions (b) and (c). He also argued the holding in California v. McKee, 47 Cal.4th 1172 (2010) that sexually violent predators (SVPs) had a due process right to the appointment of an independent expert to assist them in petitioning for conditional release from involuntary civil confinement should extend to NGIs seeking conditional release. After review, the Court of Appeal agreed with both of Endsley’s contentions, reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Endsley" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Edgar Gutierrez was convicted of attempted carjacking. Defendant claimed that he merely asked the victim if he had keys and could give him a ride. He denied threatening the victim; he claimed that he spoke Spanish poorly and the victim must have misunderstood him. On appeal, he argued the trial court erred by: (1) allowing the prosecution to impeach him with the facts underlying his prior felony conviction; and (2) discouraging the jury from requesting a readback of testimony. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

by
John Doe appealed the superior court's decision denying his petition for writ of administrative mandate to compel UCSB to rescind his suspension after he was found guilty of sexual misconduct in violation of the Student Conduct Code. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that John was denied access to critical evidence; denied the opportunity to adequately cross-examine witnesses; and denied the opportunity to present evidence in his defense. The court held that the accused must be permitted to see the evidence against him and, in this case, John was not permitted access to the complete Sexual Assault Response Team report. This error was prejudicial to John. Furthermore, cumulative errors occurred at the hearing, including the exclusion of John's evidence of the side effects of Viibryd, a prescription antidepressant, that Jane Roe was taking. The court held that neither Jane nor John received a fair hearing where the lack of due process precluded a fair evaluation of the witnesses' credibility. View "Doe v. Regents of the University of California" on Justia Law

by
Plaintiff filed suit against Musclewood, alleging that defendants violated his rights under the Disabled Persons Act (DPA), by allowing their guard dog to interfere with and attack plaintiff's guide dog. Plaintiff, who is blind, had been trained to use a route that passed in front of defendants' business when he traveled to the market or bus stop. Defendants' guard dog was not trained, leashed, or otherwise controlled or restrained. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred by sustaining a demurrer to his cause of action under the DPA without leave to amend where plaintiff stated a valid claim under section 54.3 of the DPA and plaintiff sufficiently alleged standing for damages. The court also reversed the trial court's order granting a motion to strike. In this case, the trial court committed reversible error by striking the first cause of action, the prayer for damages (including treble damages), and the prayer for attorney fees. View "Ruiz v. Musclewood Investment Properties" on Justia Law

by
Concord police officer Wilson was dispatched to a parking lot where a truck was seen “doing a burn-out.” Wilson found the parked truck with Gutierrez asleep in the driver’s seat. Gutierrez produced a Mexican consular identification card. Gutierrez had no valid California driver’s license. Wilson smelled alcohol on Gutierrez’s breath and noticed watery eyes and a slight slur to his speech. Gutierrez admitted to drinking several beers. With the aid of a Spanish-speaking police officer to translate, Wilson administered field sobriety tests. Concluding that Gutierrez had been driving under the influence of alcohol, Wilson placed him under arrest. The officers informed Gutierrez that the law required him to submit to a blood or breath test. Gutierrez chose the blood test. A phlebotomist arrived to draw Gutierrez’s blood. Gutierrez did not resist. Neither officer informed Gutierrez that if he refused both tests, he could face penalties under California’s implied consent laws. Gutierrez was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence of an alcoholic beverage and driving a motor vehicle without a valid license. Gutierrez successfully moved under Penal Code 1538.5 to suppress all evidence obtained from a blood draw. The court of appeal reversed, citing the exception to the warrant requirement for a search incident to arrest. The element of choice is dispositive; if a DUI suspect freely and voluntarily chooses a blood test over a breath test then the arresting officer does not need a warrant to have the suspect’s blood drawn. View "People v. Gutierrez" on Justia Law

by
A jury found defendant Ezekiel Delgado guilty of two counts of first degree murder and one count of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, found true a multiple-murder special circumstance and found that Delgado personally used a firearm, causing death. The trial court sentenced him to prison for a total unstayed term of 100 years to life. On appeal, defendant first claimed: (1) his inculpatory statements to the police should have been excluded on various grounds; (2) no substantial evidence supported the murder charge; (3) the trial court misinstructed on felony murder; (4) the trial court misinstructed on voluntary intoxication; (5) limits on the voluntary intoxication defense violate due process; and (6) he was entitled to a juvenile transfer hearing because of the passage of Proposition 57. The Attorney General conceded the last point. The Court of Appeal agreed with the parties that it had to remand for a juvenile transfer hearing, and agreed with defendant that, while on remand, the trial court should have the opportunity to consider exercising its newly acquired discretion regarding firearm enhancements. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court concluded the trial court erred in admitting some of defendant’s inculpatory admissions, but found the error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court disagreed with defendant’s remaining contentions of error, and remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Delgado" on Justia Law

by
In the event a local agency believes it is entitled to subvention for a new unfunded state mandate, the agency may file a “test claim” with the Commission on State Mandates (Commission). Here, the Commission denied consolidated test claims for subvention by appellants Paradise Irrigation District (Paradise), South Feather Water & Power Agency (South Feather), Richvale Irrigation District (Richvale), Biggs-West Gridley Water District (Biggs), Oakdale Irrigation District (Oakdale), and Glenn-Colusa Irrigation District (Glenn-Colusa) (collectively, the Water Districts). The Commission determined the Water Districts had sufficient legal authority to levy fees to pay for any water service improvements mandated by the Water Conservation Act of 2009. The trial court agreed and dismissed a petition for writ of mandate brought by the Water Districts. On appeal, the Water Districts presented a question left open by the Court of Appeal's decision in Connell v. Superior Court 59 Cal.App.4th 382 (1997), addressing the statutory interpretation of Revenue and Taxation Code section 2253.2 (recodified in pertinent part without substantive change in Government Code section 17556). Connell held local water districts were precluded from subvention for state mandates to increase water purity levels insofar as the water districts have legal authority to levy fees to cover the costs of the state-mandated program. In so holding, Connell rejected an argument by the Santa Margarita Water District and three other water districts that they did not have the “practical ability in light of surrounding economic circumstances.” The Connell Court reasoned that crediting Santa Margarita’s argument “would create a vague standard not capable of reasonable adjudication. Had the Legislature wanted to adopt the position advanced by [Santa Margarita], it would have used ‘reasonable ability’ in the statute rather than ‘authority.’ ” This appeal addresses that issue by considering whether the passage of Proposition 218 changed the authority of water districts to levy fees so that unfunded state mandates for water service must now be reimbursed by the state. The Court of Appeal concluded Proposition 218 did not undermine Connell, thus, the Commission properly denied the reimbursement claims at issue here because the Water Districts continued to have legal authority to levy fees even if that authority was subject to majority protest of customers. View "Paradise Irrigation Dist. v. Commission on State Mandates" on Justia Law

by
Defendant-appellant Edgar Espinoza was charged with one count of possession of methamphetamine for sale; defendant pled guilty to the charge. The court suspended imposition of defendant’s sentence and placed him on three years of formal probation with 220 days in local custody. Defendant moved to withdraw his plea, claiming he was not advised of the immigration consequences of his plea; this motion was denied. While on formal probation, he admitted a violation and was sentenced to 16 months in county jail. Defendant again moved to withdraw his guilty plea, now under the newly-enacted Penal Code section 1473.7. In his motion, defendant represented that he had been “placed into removal proceedings.” Again, the motion was denied. Defendant then appealed to the Court of Appeal, which found section 1473.7 applied in this case and the trial court erred in denying defendant's motion filed pursuant to it. View "California v. Espinoza" on Justia Law