Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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After the trial court granted defendant's petition for writ of habeas corpus and resentenced him to 50 years to life in state prison, defendant appealed. Defendant was originally sentenced to 94 years to life after he was convicted of multiple violent sex offenses when he was 17 years old. The Court of Appeal vacated the sentence under Proposition 57 and held that he was entitled to a hearing in juvenile court regarding whether his case should be transferred to adult criminal court. If the juvenile court determines it would not have transferred defendant to criminal court under current law, the juvenile court shall treat his convictions as juvenile adjudications and impose an appropriate disposition within its usual time frame. If, however, the juvenile court decides it would have transferred defendant to adult criminal court, the case shall be transferred to criminal court, which shall reinstate his convictions but conduct a resentencing hearing on the vacated sentence. In light of People v. Contreras (2018) 4 Cal.5th 349, 383, the criminal court shall consider mitigating circumstances. View "People v. Garcia" on Justia 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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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's restitution order requiring defendant to pay the victim $4,015.44 to compensate him for wire defendant stole. In this case, defendant stole 520 feet of underwater copper wire from Four Sisters Ranch winery. After defendant's arrest, the police recovered and returned some of the wire. The court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by ordering restitution where the victim was in a far less favorable condition than before the theft occurred and further hearings only serve to further victimize the victim. View "People v. Erickson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's convictions of three counts of second degree murder, 19 counts of unlawfully prescribing controlled substances, and one count of obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. The court held that substantial evidence supported defendant's second degree murder convictions, and the trial court did not err in admitting evidence of the six uncharged deaths of defendant's patients. The court also held that defendant failed to demonstrate prejudicial error in the trial court's denial of her motion to unseal the affidavit in support of the warrant to search her bank accounts, or in finding that the warrant was supported by probable cause; nor has she demonstrated any miscarriage of justice from introduction at trial of the financial information obtained through the warrant. Finally, the court held that defendant failed to demonstrate that the prosecution committed prejudicial misconduct warranting reversal; the trial court did not err in reopening closing arguments; the impositions of consecutive sentences on Counts 1 and 4 did not violate Penal Code section 654; and the cumulative error doctrine did not apply. View "People v. Hsiu Ying Lisa Tseng" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal 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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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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C.S., then 15 years old, participated in a 2012 gang assault that resulted in the death of the 14-year-old victim. Under then-applicable Welfare and Institutions Code sections 602 and 7071, C.S. was charged in a court of criminal jurisdiction, rather than in juvenile court, with murder, assault by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury and participation in a street gang. In 2016, a jury convicted C.S. Before C.S.’s sentencing hearing, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act (Proposition 57) was passed and took effect the next day, amending sections 602 and 707, to provide that any allegation of criminal conduct against a person who was under age 18 at the time of an alleged offense must first be filed in juvenile court. There is no longer a presumption that a minor who was 14 or older when he allegedly committed certain offenses, is unfit for juvenile court; the prosecutor must request that the juvenile court transfer the minor to adult/criminal court. C.S.’s case was sent to juvenile court for a retrospective transfer hearing. That court ordered C.S., then 21 years old, transferred to adult/criminal court. The court of appeal vacated. The juvenile court must clearly and explicitly “articulate its evaluative process” by detailing “how it weighed the evidence” and by “identify[ing] the specific facts which persuaded the court” to reach its decision on the statutory criteria. View "C.S. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

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Defendant was sentenced to prison for possessing stolen property. On June 6, 2014, he was released from prison and placed on postrelease community supervision (PRCS). A December 2015 petition for revocation of PRCS indicated supervision was to expire on June 16, 2017. Defendant admitted violating PRCS; the court revoked and then reinstated PRCS. An August 2016 revocation petition again indicated the June 16, 2017 scheduled expiration date. The court revoked PRCS and remanded Defendant to custody. At a September 2016 hearing, Defendant admitted his violation. The court reinstated PRCS, requiring that Defendant serve 120 days in county jail. A February 2017 petition for revocation stated the date of expiration as “7/11/2017 (time tolled).” The 25-day difference reflected the 25 days Defendant spent in custody in 2016, while PRCS was revoked. Defendant failed to appear; the court issued a bench warrant. Defendant was remanded to custody in April 2017. On June 2, 2017, the court again reinstated PRCS. The court of appeal held that Defendant’s PRCS was not automatically extended when PRCS was revoked and then reinstated. Penal Code 1203.2(a) provides that revocation shall "toll the running of” supervision; a reasonable reading of precedent indicates that the length of the PRCS is not automatically extended when PRCS is reinstituted after revocation; a trial court may choose to extend the original expiration date within the maximum statutory period. View "People v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law