Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Richmond Police Officer Gault and his colleagues conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Navarro. Reyes sat in the front passenger seat with a lunch pail on his lap. Gault suspected Reyes “was trying to hide something because he wouldn’t move and he was breathing heavily,” so he asked Reyes to step out of the car and pat-searched him. Gault then leaned into the car and noticed a backpack unzipped with a loaded firearm inside, on the “[p]assenger floorboard to the feet of Mr. Reyes leaning against the center console.” There were at least 40 rounds of ammunition in the magazine. The firearm was not registered to either Reyes or Navarro. Reyes and Navarro were charged with receiving a large-capacity magazine (Pen. Code 32310(a)), and Reyes was charged with possession of a firearm by a felon (section 29800(a)(1)). It was further alleged that Reyes was on bail. A jury found Reyes guilty. The court of appeal reversed. The trial court committed prejudicial error in excluding Navarro’s hearsay declaration against penal interest, claiming ownership of the gun, which should have been admitted under Evidence Code section 1230 and in admitting evidence of a prior uncharged incident in which Reyes was found with firearms in his car. View "People v. Reyes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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This case involved a crime that started as an attempted robbery, and ended in the death of three individuals: the victim of the attempted robbery and two of the defendants' cohorts involved in that crime. A jury convicted defendant Steven Carter of one count of first degree murder and one count of attempted robbery. Defendant Michael Hall pled no contest to voluntary manslaughter, robbery, and an enhancement. Defendants raised separate sentencing challenges on appeal: Carter argued the court violated Penal Code section 654 when it sentenced him to consecutive terms for attempted robbery and first degree murder of the robbery victim; Hall argued the court abused its discretion in imposing a 12-year sentence under the terms of his plea agreement, and that errors were made in calculating his sentence. The Court of Appeal agreed the trial court erred in Hall's subsequent resentencing, but disagreed with Carter's and Hall's remaining sentencing challenges. California Senate Bill No. 1437 amended the murder statutes, sections 188 and 189, and enacted a new statute, section 1170.95 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015, sections 2-4), establishing procedures for eligible defendants to seek resentencing. The Court concluded Carter and Hall could not raise their claims in this appeal; they had to first petition the superior court for relief under section 1170.95. Judgment as to Carter was affirmed; judgment as to Hall was affirmed as modified. View "California v. Carter" on Justia Law

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Proposition 66's procedures for appealing the denial of a petition for a writ of habeas corpus from the superior court to the Court of Appeal apply to a petition originally filed with the Supreme Court prior to Proposition 66's enactment when the Supreme Court first referred part of the case to the superior court for fact finding and then, after Proposition 66's enactment, transferred the outstanding issues to the superior court "for adjudication." The Court of Appeal held that the Supreme Court invoked those procedures in transferring the outstanding issues to the superior court for adjudication. The court held therefore that this appeal from the superior court's denial of the petition was jurisdictionally proper. The order to show cause is discharged. View "In re Robinson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Penal Code section 1381, which states that a criminal defendant who is sentenced to a crime has a right to demand that he be brought to trial and sentenced within 90 days in any other "pending . . .criminal proceeding," anywhere in the state, in which he "remains to be sentenced," does not apply to a proceeding in which the trial court imposed a specific sentence on defendant, suspended execution of that sentence, and placed defendant on probation. In light of the Court of Appeal's conclusion that section 1381 did not apply, the court had no occasion to decide whether the People complied with its provisions in this case. View "People v. Smith" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After he molested his niece, Montiel was convicted of sexual penetration of a child 10 years of age or younger and of lewd or lascivious acts with a child under 14 years old and was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments based defense counsel’s failure to object to expert testimony on Child Sexual Abuse Accommodation Syndrome that bolstered the victim’s credibility and that the trial court erred by admitting evidence of an uncharged sex offense he committed against the same victim. The court upheld an award to the victim’s mother of restitution for noneconomic losses, and imposition of victim restitution even though the sentence for the conviction on which it was based was stayed. The trial court was authorized to award restitution to the victim’s mother based on the mother’s own psychological harm. View "People v. Montiel" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Convicted on 15 counts of sexually molesting three victims over a two-year period, Jimenez was sentenced to an indeterminate term of 175 years to life in prison and a determinate term of four years four months; the sentence included seven consecutive terms of 25 years to life on seven counts, Some of his victims were younger than 14 years of age. The court of appeal affirmed the convictions but remanded for resentencing, rejecting arguments that the prosecution committed misconduct in closing argument by stating Jimenez was no longer presumed innocent and shifting the burden of proof to the defense and erred by admitting a note that one of the victims had written to her mother disclosing the sexual abuse. The court also rejected claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and cumulative prejudice in connection with these claims and that the evidence was insufficient to support convictions on two counts of forcible lewd acts because the evidence failed to prove he used force or duress. The trial court erred by imposing terms of 25 years to life based on sentencing enhancements based on the victims' ages, that the prosecution failed to plead. View "People v. Jimenez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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To secure a criminal defendant’s release from custody, appellant Seneca Insurance Company posted a $100,000 bail bond. The defendant later failed to appear in court as ordered, so the trial court ordered the bond forfeited, and the clerk sent appellant and its bond agent a notice of forfeiture. Appellant did not thereafter bring defendant to court and it made no attempt to exonerate the bond within the statutory time period for doing so. With no request for exoneration of the bond, the trial court entered summary judgment against appellant on it and appellant was served with a notice of entry of judgment. Appellant unsuccessfully moved to set aside the summary judgment, discharge the forfeiture and exonerate the bond. After multiple fruitless attempts to obtain payment on the judgment, respondent Orange County filed a request for an order to show cause, seeking to disqualify appellant from acting as a surety on bail in Orange County pursuant to Penal Code section 1308. With respect to appellant’s motion, the court declined to exonerate the bail, but granted a permanent stay of enforcement pursuant to Penal Code section 1306(f), because more than two years had elapsed since its entry. As for respondent’s request, the court: (1) found appellant did not pay the judgment; (2) determined the judgment’s underlying validity was not affected by the fact it could no longer be enforced; and (3) concluded suspension of appellant’s ability to act as a surety on bail was required pursuant to section 1308. As the facts were undisputed, and appellant did not pay the judgment at issue, the Court of Appeal found the trial court did not err in concluding appellant could no longer act as a surety on bail so long as it remained unpaid. View "County of Orange v. Seneca Insurance Co." on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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A jury convicted Richard Zamora of one count each of attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon (handgun), robbery, and criminal threats. He was convicted on two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm. In a bifurcated proceeding, the court found true that Zamora had served four prior prison terms, had been convicted of three prior serious felonies, and had suffered three prior serious or violent felony convictions under the “Three Strikes” law. Two of the prison priors were reduced to misdemeanors and stricken, and a third was stricken for falling outside of the five-year rule. Zamora was sentenced to state prison for an aggregate term of 20 years, plus 100 years to life. Zamora appealed the attempted murder conviction, contending that there was insufficient evidence to support the finding that he had the specific intent to kill. He further contended one of the serious felony priors must be stricken and that the case should be remanded for resentencing under Senate Bills Nos. 620 and 1393 to permit the trial court to exercise its newly granted discretion as to whether to strike the firearm enhancements and to strike or dismiss the remaining serious felony conviction enhancements. The State conceded the points about the serious felony prior and the enhancements. The Court of Appeal affirmed the conviction and remanded for resentencing. View "California v. Zamora" on Justia Law

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Penal Code section 1170.95's petitioning procedure applies to a juvenile, like the one in this case, whose murder allegation was sustained by the juvenile court on a natural and probable consequences theory prior to the enactment of Senate Bill 1437, which amended the natural and probable consequences doctrine as it relates to murder. Because R.G. has not petitioned the court to have the conviction vacated and the corresponding commitment recalled, the Court of Appeal held that Senate Bill 1437 relief was premature. Accordingly, the court affirmed the juvenile court's order sustaining the allegation that R.G. committed second degree murder. View "People v. R.G." on Justia Law

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A jury convicted Johnson of rape of an intoxicated person (Pen. Code 261(a)(3)) and the trial court sentenced him to eight years in prison. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the statute defining the crime of rape of an intoxicated person is unconstitutionally vague and improperly permits conviction without a finding of intent or criminal negligence. The court also upheld the jury instructions, rejecting Johnson’s argument that a defendant’s belief in the capacity to consent, whether or not that belief was reasonable, is a defense to the charged crime. The court found that any prosecutorial misconduct in mentioning Johnson’s prior drug conviction or in Johnson’s cross-examination was harmless error and that upheld the trial court’s evidentiary rulings. Rejecting an argument that the court erred by imposing a restitution fine and certain fees at sentencing without determining whether Johnson had the ability to pay them, the court of appeal stated that even if he suffered a due process violation, Johnson has ample time to pay the $370 from a readily available source of income while incarcerated, so any error is harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. View "People v. Johnson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law