Justia California Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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North River posted a $50,000 bail bond for Chirinos’s release from custody. Chirinos appeared in court on February 3 and March 3. The district attorney filed a “notice of motion for release of documents pursuant to subpoena.” The proof of service states that the public defender was served. Chirinos did not appear at the March 28 hearing; his attorney asked that Chirinos’s appearance be excused. The court did not respond but the “judge’s notes” state, “waived.” The court released the subpoenaed records and continued the matter until April 7 for the preliminary hearing. Judge’s notes indicate that the preliminary hearing was held and the case was set for arraignment. Chirinos was arraigned on April 18; the matter was continued until June 27. Chirinos failed to appear on June 27. The court ordered the bond forfeited, to be final in 180 days. North River unsuccessfully moved to vacate the forfeiture and exonerate the bail bond based on the court’s failure to order bail forfeited on March 28, 2016. The court of appeal reversed, exonerating the bond. The March 28 hearing was a “case-related proceeding[] that occur[red] in open court,” under Penal Code section 977(b), so Chirinos’s appearance was required. Although there is no evidence that Chirinos had actual notice of the hearing date, notice to him can be inferred from the notice to defense counsel, who was served and appeared. The record provides no rational basis for the court’s implicit finding of sufficient excuse. View "People v. North River Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Rubio entered a no-contest plea to possession of a controlled substance with a firearm (Health & Saf. Code 12305) after the trial court denied his motion to suppress evidence found in his converted garage apartment (Pen. Code 1538.5). Police had forcefully entered the apartment after responding to the scene where 11 gunshots had just been fired. The officers found spent shell casings in the driveway and had arrested one person acting aggressively in the yard and another, acting erratically, in the house to which the apartment was attached. The officers thought that the exterior door to the apartment might be barricaded. They were concerned that a shooting victim or suspect might be inside. The court of appeal agreed with the lower court that under the circumstances the warrantless entry was justified under the “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment warrant requirement. Although the officers were not aware of a specific, known individual who might be in danger or might pose an imminent threat to others, if the circumstances suggest that such a person may be inside a dwelling, the police may reasonably enter to determine whether, in fact, such a person is present. View "People v. Rubio" on Justia Law

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After father sexually abused A.M., a minor, the juvenile court issued a two-year restraining order prohibiting father from having any visitation or contact with minor. Father appealed the portion of the restraining order denying him any contact, claiming it was not supported by substantial evidence. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the evidence established that father groomed and sexually abused minor over many years, and that the nature of the sexual abuse progressed. Furthermore, there was sufficient evidence that any contact between father and minor would jeopardize her emotional and psychological safety regardless of whether she has been resilient. Therefore, there was a sufficient basis to also conclude that her physical safety would be at risk but for the restraining order proscribing all contact. View "In re A.M." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction of driving under the influence of alcohol causing injury within 10 years of a prior driving under the influence offense. Defendant alleged that the trial court erred in denying her motion to suppress statements she made to police during field sobriety tests administered at the police station, in violation of her Fifth Amendment rights under Miranda v. Arizona. The court held that Pennsylvania v. Muniz, (1990) 496 U.S. 582, foreclosed defendant's argument as to the first four of the six statements at issue. The court held that asking a DUI suspect to perform physical tests is not an "interrogation." Likewise, defendant's challenge to the fifth statement failed for similar reasons. Furthermore, any error in denying defendant's challenge to the sixth statement -- her estimate of 23 seconds on the modified Romberg test when in fact 30 seconds had elapsed -- was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "People v. Cooper" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A jury convicted petitioner Tony Arroyo of one count of attempted second degree robbery and one count of assault with a deadly weapon. It also found true two prior serious felony allegations, two strike allegations, and four one-year prior prison commitment allegations. The trial court imposed an indeterminate 35-years-to-life sentence: 25 years to life under the Three-Strikes law on the attempted robbery charge, plus a 10-year sentence for the serious felony priors. Sentencing on the assault charge and the four one- year prison commitment allegations was stayed. The Court of Appeal affirmed the judgment on direct appeal. Arroyo filed a habeas corpus petition in the superior court challenging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) regulations that at the time made three strike offenders serving an indeterminate sentence for a nonviolent offense ineligible for early parole consideration under Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. The superior court denied the petition because Arroyo failed to exhaust his administrative remedies by not first seeking review through CDCR’s Inmate Appeal Process. Arroyo then filed a similar habeas corpus petition with the Court of Appeal. The Court of Appeal thereafter asked for an informal response from CDCR, the Attorney General responded, and Arroyo filed a reply. The Court issued an order to show cause why it should not grant the relief requested in the petition. The Attorney General filed a return and Arroyo, represented by counsel, filed a traverse. Thereafter, the Court received supplemental briefing from the parties. The Court discharged its order to show cause, and denied the petition as moot. View "In re Arroyo" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal joined with the courts ruling that defendants who made a plea deal must obtain a certificate of probable cause before asking, on appeal, for a remand for resentencing under Senate Bill No. 1393. The court held that the Legislature did not want SB 1393 to alter existing sentences based on a negotiated plea deal and a stipulated sentence. The court dismissed this appeal because defendant never tried to obtain a certificate of probable cause. View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A jury convicted defendant Spencer Marsh of assault with a deadly weapon and vandalism. The charges arose from an incident involving a formal Navy SEAL at a fitness club parking lot; the brake lines to the SEAL’s vehicle had been cut, and defendant was identified as a person on surveillance video under the SEAL’s vehicle at the times the SEAL was inside the club. The jury also found true the allegations in connection with count 1, that the deadly weapon used to commit this offense was a vehicle, and that defendant personally used this dangerous and deadly weapon; and in connection with count 2, that the amount of property damage was $400 or more. The court sentenced defendant to the midterm of three years in prison on count 1, and stayed under Penal Code section 654(a) a two-year midterm sentence on count 2. On appeal, defendant contended the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction of assault with a deadly weapon; that the court prejudicially erred in instructing the jury on the meaning of the phrase "deadly weapon"; and that defense counsel violated his constitutional rights by allegedly conceding during closing argument that defendant was guilty of the vandalism charge in count 2. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Marsh" on Justia Law

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Defendant Daniel Sexton was convicted of several crimes committed against Jane Doe, his ex-wife. During the course of the investigation, Jane first accused him of domestic violence, later recanted her allegations, and then reverted to her original statements. At trial, the jury received testimony from an expert who offered her professional opinion about statements typically made by victims of intimate partner battering. Specifically, the expert asserted that it was not unusual for victims of intimate partner battering to cycle between periods of seeking assistance from law enforcement and of supporting their battering partners, including by making false statements to the police. On appeal, Sexton challenged CALCRIM No. 850, the standard jury instruction regarding testimony by complaining witnesses in cases in which the jury also hears evidence from an expert in intimate partner battering. Sexton claimed the instruction would suggest that if jurors found the expert to be credible, they should find the witness credible too. Furthermore, Sexton argued: (1) because Arizona's robbery statute did not contain all the elements of California's, including asportation, the true finding on the alleged Arizona prior conviction had to be reversed and the five-year prior serious felony enhancement stricken; (2) the statutory dual punishment ban required the sentence on either count 3 (domestic violence) or count 4 (assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury) be stayed given that both counts were predicated on the same physical assault as part of a single course of conduct that had one objective, the infliction of physical and emotional harm on Jane. Sexton sought remand for the trial court to consider whether it should strike his prior serious felony enhancement under Senate Bill No. 1393, which the State conceded was appropriate. View "California v. Sexton" on Justia Law

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Minor J.S. appealed a dispositional order adjudging him a ward of the court pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 602 and placing him on formal probation, subject to various terms and conditions. At the time of the incident that led to the charges against J.S., in October 2017, the victim, John Doe, was nine years old and lived with his grandmother in Contra Costa County, California. That month, a family friend and her son and two nephews, 12-year-old J.S. and his brother R.R., were temporarily staying at Doe's home. The family friend's nephews stayed in Doe's room with him. Doe woke up and turned on the light in his room. At that time, R.R. was still sleeping and J.S. was in the bathroom getting ready for school. When J.S. returned to the bedroom, he told Doe to suck his "private part," and said that if Doe did not do it, J.S. would hurt Doe. J.S. exposed his penis and "showed" Doe what he wanted Doe to do. Doe was afraid that J.S. would hurt him, so he got on the ground and began to orally copulate J.S. Doe's grandmother discovered the pair; police were ultimately called. J.S. denied the sequence of events. On appeal, J.S. argued that certain probation conditions that permitted searches of his electronic devices and imposed limitations on his use of computers, the Internet, and social networking Web sites were unconstitutionally overbroad and should be stricken in their entirety. In the alternative, J.S. contended that the conditions at issue should have been stricken and the case remanded to allow the trial court to determine whether the conditions can be narrowly tailored to serve the state's interest in rehabilitation. Finding no abuse of discretion or other reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "In re J.S." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's felony convictions for possession of a firearm and ammunition, holding that substantial evidence supported a finding that the contraband was in defendant's constructive possession. However, the court reversed the misdemeanor conviction of possessing burglary tools, because no evidence supported a finding that any such tools were upon defendant in his possession. In this case, even though defendant had constructive possession of the backpack and it contained the lock pick set, he was not carrying the backpack. The court also held that the trial court erred by staying instead of striking one of the prior prison term enhancements. The court otherwise affirmed the judgment. View "People v. Bay" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law