Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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Defendant challenged his conviction for mayhem, contending that the trial court engaged in improper judicial factfinding to determine that his prior conviction of assault from 1991 under Penal Code section 245, subdivision (a)(1), was a serious felony and a strike under California's "Three Strikes" law, violating his Sixth Amendment right to a jury trial. The Court of Appeal held that the trial court erred in relying upon the preliminary hearing transcript to support the finding that the prior felony was a serious felony. Accordingly, the court reversed and remanded for further proceedings. View "People v. Hudson" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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After remand from the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal reaffirmed defendants' convictions and order modifications. The court directed the trial court on remand to hold a hearing on ability to pay. The court also remanded for resentencing. The court directed the trial court to consider, in light of People v. Contreras, (2018) 4 Cal.5th 349, any mitigating circumstances of Defendant Moreland's crimes and life, and the impact of any new legislation and regulations on appropriate sentencing. The court also directed the trial court to impose a time by which Moreland could seek parole. View "People v. Adams" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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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

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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

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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

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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

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Defendant was convicted of theft from an elder or dependent adult in 2010 (the criminal action). After the victim died before the end of the criminal action, plaintiff, the conservator and the co-administrator, filed two actions against defendant under Probate Code section 850, seeking civil damages (the probate action) and another action that resulted in a restitution award (restitution judgment). The Court of Appeal held that, pursuant to the terms of a stipulation concerning the amount of restitution in the criminal action, defendant's prejudgment restitution payments should have been credited against principal rather than interest. The court held, however, that even after adjusting the remaining principal on the restitution judgment to account for prejudgment payments, defendant still owed a substantial sum. Therefore, the court remanded for recalculation of the amount remaining due on the restitution judgment. The court rejected defendant's remaining arguments. The court affirmed the judgment in the probate action. View "Kerley v. Weber" on Justia Law

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In 2011, Pipkin was sentenced to state prison for two years after his probation was revoked with respect to a 2009 felony grand theft conviction. As a condition of parole with respect to this qualifying offense, Pipkin was committed to Atascadero State Hospital in October 2011, for treatment as a mentally disordered offender (MDO), Penal Code section 2962. Before Pipkin’s release from parole, the District Attorney filed a successful section 2970 petition seeking Pipkin’s continued commitment as an MDO for an additional year. In May 2015, the District Attorney filed a recommitment petition for the one-year period beginning October 13, 2015. However, in August 2015, Pipkin’s qualifying conviction for grand theft was reduced to a misdemeanor under Proposition 47, so Pipkin moved to dismiss the pending recommitment petition, arguing that further commitment as an MDO was not authorized because his qualifying conviction must now be treated as a misdemeanor “for all purposes.” (Penal Code 1170.18(k)). The trial court, in March 2016, denied Pipkin’s motion and granted the recommitment petition. After Pipkin’s MDO commitment expired in October 2016, no further petition for recommitment was filed. The court of appeal dismissed his appeal because Pipkin is no longer subject to civil commitment. View "People v. Pipkin" on Justia Law

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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

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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