Articles Posted in Constitutional Law

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K.P. was found not guilty by reason of insanity by a jury; he shot and killed his father. In this appeal, the issue presented for the Court of Appeal's review centered on whether the recent amendment to subdivision (h) of Penal Code section 12022.53, giving a trial court discretion to strike or dismiss a firearm enhancement, applied retroactively to a person - whose case is not yet final - committed to a state hospital after being found not guilty by reason of insanity. K.P. contended that denying an insanity acquittee the ability to have a firearm enhancement under section 12022.53 (d) dismissed based on a trial court's exercise of discretion under section 12022.53 (h) violated the equal protection clause of the state and federal constitutions. The Court concluded that amended section 12022.53 did not apply to an insanity acquittee, and there was no equal protection violation. View "California v. K.P." on Justia Law

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California law provides that the death penalty shall be inflicted by either lethal gas or by “an intravenous injection of a substance or substances in a lethal quantity sufficient to cause death, by standards established under the direction of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.” (Pen. Code 3604 (a)). Death-row inmates and the ACLU challenged the law as impermissibly delegating the Legislature’s authority to nonelected agency officials. The court of appeal affirmed that section 3604 does not violate the doctrine of separation of powers. The statute’s purpose gives the Department adequate guidance. The Eighth Amendment prohibits governmental imposition of cruel and unusual punishments, and bars infliction of unnecessary pain in the execution of the death sentence. In developing a protocol for lethal injections, the Department must meet these standards: it may not inflict unnecessary pain and it must seek to avoid a lingering death. The Legislature did not need to provide more explicit standards and safeguards. View "Sims v. Kernan" on Justia Law

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Richard LaDuke appealed his conviction by jury of arson, vandalism of a religious educational institution, and felony vandalism causing over $400 in damage. At sentencing, the trial court granted him three years of formal probation, subject to certain conditions of probation. On appeal, he argued: (1) there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction for vandalism of a religious educational institution; (2) that conviction had to be reversed because Penal Code section 594.3 (a) was unconstitutional under the United States and California Constitutions; (3) his conviction for felony vandalism causing over $400 in damage had to be reversed because it was a necessarily included offense of vandalism of a religious educational institution; and (4) the electronics search condition of his probation was unconstitutionally overbroad. The Court of Appeal found the electronics search probation condition was unreasonable in this case, and modified the probation order to strike that condition. The Court affirmed in all other respects. View "California v. LaDuke" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff appealed the trial court's denial of his petition for a writ of administrative mandamus to set aside his expulsion from USC for unauthorized alcohol use, sexual misconduct, sexual assault, and rape of another student. The Court of Appeal reversed and held that plaintiff was denied a fair hearing where three central witnesses were not interviewed and thus the Title IX investigator was not able to assess the credibility of these critical witnesses during the interviews. The court also held that USC did not comply with its own procedures to conduct a fair and thorough investigation by failing to request that the student provide her clothes from the morning of the incident and her consent to release her medical records from the rape treatment center. Accordingly, the court remanded for further proceedings. View "Doe v. University of Southern California" on Justia Law

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The juvenile court found minor E.P. committed second degree burglary, possessed graffiti tools, received stolen property, and illegally possessed alcohol. E.P. contended the Court of Appeal should have reversed the burglary finding (count 1) because the evidence was insufficient to show he committed burglary rather than the new crime defined by Proposition 47 as shoplifting. He further argued the Court had to reverse the findings he received stolen property (counts 4-6) because he cannot be charged or convicted of both shoplifting and receiving the same property. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the evidence was insufficient to show that E.P. committed burglary and, therefore, reverse the true finding on the burglary count. Because E.P. was not charged with shoplifting, there was no bar to charging him with receiving stolen property (counts 4-6) and the court’s true findings on those counts. Accordingly, the Court reversed the finding E.P. committed burglary, but affirmed the findings he received stolen property and illegally possessed an alcoholic beverage. View "In re E.P." on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Thomas appealed his convictions for possession of a dirk or dagger, possession of methamphetamine with prior convictions, and possession of drug paraphernalia. Sacramento Police received a call that a “male black adult subject wearing a dark hoody, . . . and black pants” was harassing customers in front of a business in the Del Paso Heights area. The Del Paso Heights area has a high crime rate. There were a high number of transients and homeless people in the area. The description of the subject was clarified as a gray hooded sweatshirt and black pants. Additional information included that the subject had “set up camp,” “there was some kind of homeless camp set up nearby,” and defendant “appeared to have something mental going on,” in that he did not seem to understand when people were speaking to him. There was no information in the call regarding threats, trespassing, battery, physical assault, or weapons being involved. The arresting officer observed the day of the encounter with Defendant it was a "pretty warm afternoon." Defendant was seated on the sidewalk approximately 70-80 yards away from the complaining business. The officers explained why they were in the area and speaking to defendant, but he “repeatedly would not give his name.” Based on “what he was wearing, the totality of the circumstances,” Defendant was asked if he had any weapons on him. Defendant said he was not on probation, did not have to speak to the officers, and began walking away. One officer put defendant in a control hold while the other handcuffed him and performed a patsearch for weapons. In the course of that search, the searching officer felt an item that felt like a fixed blade knife and what felt like a narcotics pipe. After removing the knife from the lining of defendant’s jacket, officers “observed” an EBT card in defendant’s pocket with defendant’s name on it. Police performed a records check and it showed defendant was on informal searchable probation. The officers continued to search defendant and found methamphetamine in the same pocket the pipe had been in. On appeal, defendant contended it was error to deny his motion to suppress under Penal Code section 1538.5 as the detention and patsearch were not justified by reasonable suspicion. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed the trial court's conviction. View "California v. Thomas" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs are four parents and their children residing throughout California and a California nonprofit corporation, A Voice for Choice, Inc. This case rose constitutional challenges to Senate Bill No. 277, which repealed the personal belief exemption to California’s immunization requirements for children attending public and private educational and child care facilities. Plaintiffs sued claiming Senate Bill No. 277 violated their rights under California’s Constitution to substantive due process, privacy, and a public education. The trial court sustained the defendants’ demurrer to plaintiffs’ complaint without leave to amend and plaintiffs appealed. On appeal, plaintiffs also raised an additional argument that Senate Bill No. 277 violated their constitutional right to free exercise of religion, although they did not allege a separate cause of action on that basis in their complaint. The Court of Appeal found "[p]laintiffs' arguments are strong on hyperbole and scant on authority." Finding no violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights, the Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court. View "Love v. California Dept. of Education" on Justia Law

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Defendant Brandon Berch objected to having a commissioner preside over his preliminary and final parole revocation hearings. His objection was overruled. The commissioner revoked defendant’s parole and committed him to 120 days in jail. The Court of Appeal found revoking parole and committing a defendant to jail for violation of parole were not subordinate judicial duties that could be performed by a commissioner in the absence of a stipulation by the parties. Because defendant did not stipulate to the commissioner revoking his parole and committing him to jail, the postjudgment order was reversed. View "California v. Berch" on Justia Law

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Late one night, two officers were piloting a police helicopter when a laser struck their cockpit multiple times. The windshield on the aircraft refracted the light from the laser throughout the cockpit, which restricted the officers’ visibility and gave one of them a headache. However, they were able to trace the source of the laser to appellant Mengyan Sun's apartment, and officers arrested appellant there a short time later. Appellant was charged with two counts each of assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated assault on a peace officer. He argued on appeal his prosecution for that general offense was precluded by statutes that specifically pertain to the unlawful use of a laser. The Court of Appeal agreed and reversed his convictions for assault with a deadly weapon. The Court published its opinion "to underscore the continued vitality and adaptability of the venerable Williamson rule, which we believe has aged well." View "California v. Sun" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Shauna Burton guilty of two counts of first degree murder and one count of second degree robbery, found true a multiple-murder special circumstance, and found true allegations that defendant used two deadly weapons (a flashlight and a knife). The trial court sentenced defendant to prison for life without parole plus seven years. On appeal, she argued the trial court improperly admitted evidence about a prior conviction, no substantial evidence supports first degree murder, and the court misinstructed on the use of willfully false prior statements. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction shall affirm. View "California v. Burton" on Justia Law