Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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There is no equal protection violation for the procedural difference between when a supervising agency files a petition to modify, revoke, or terminate a criminal defendant’s parole or postrelease community supervision, its petition must be accompanied by a written report containing information specified by statute and the California Rules of Court, and when a district attorney files such a petition, its petition need not be accompanied by such a report. Therefore, the Court of Appeal held that the trial court correctly overruled the demurrer in this case. View "People v. Castel" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of 11 counts related to a corruption scandal involving the City of Bell. The Court of Appeals held that the jury could reasonably have concluded that defendant was criminally negligent by failing to take steps to determine whether the loans at issue were authorized. However, the court reversed the five convictions for misappropriation of public funds because the jury instructions were erroneous in light of People v. Hubbard, (2016) 63 Cal.4th 378. Hubbard was issued after defendant's trial and clarified the scope of Penal Code section 424. Furthermore, the error was not harmless. The court affirmed the conflict of interest conviction based on her involvement in changing Bell's pension plan because amendments to the pension plan effectively modified the terms of defendant's employment with Bell, and constituted the making of a contract within the meaning of Government Code section 1090. The court remanded for further proceedings, including correction of the abstract of judgment to delete references to defendant's current or prior serious or violent felony convictions. View "People v. Spaccia" on Justia Law

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Jose S., a former ward of the juvenile court, moved under Welfare and Institutions Code section 781 to seal juvenile records related to an admitted charge of lewd and lascivious conduct that occurred in 2002. The juvenile court denied the motion, finding Jose was precluded from relief under section 781 because of an additional admitted and disqualifying charge of assault with a deadly weapon in 2005. On appeal, Jose argued each offense constituted a separate case for purposes of section 781 and that the records related to his 2002 offense should have been sealed. Jose argued in the alternative that the court's denial of his motion to seal was improper because the 2005 assault did not fall within the list of disqualifying offenses set forth in section 707, subdivision (b). The Court of Appeal rejected both these contentions and found the juvenile court did not err in refusing to seal Jose’s records. View "In re Jose S." on Justia Law

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Luis Alford pled guilty to possessing methamphetamine for sale. The court sentenced Alford to eight years in custody, plus three years four months on mandatory supervision. The court also imposed various fines and assessments. Alford's appellate challenge concerns the court's imposition of a monetary penalty based on two statutory assessments: (1) a criminal laboratory analysis fee (laboratory fee); and (2) a drug program fee. Alford acknowledged the court properly assessed him for the laboratory and drug program fees, but contended the court erred in concluding the penalty statutes applied to require an additional penalty on top of those fees. There was a split in authority in the Courts of Appeal on this precise issue. The Court of Appeal determined the court's assessment of the additional penalties was proper. View "California v. Alford" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeals concluded Jerome Wilford's challenge to his sentence on two counts of corporal injury to a cohabitant was well taken. For counts 5 and 6, the amended information alleged Wilford committed a violation of section 273.5(a), which carried a sentence range of two, three, or four years. In addition, the information included a special allegation under section 273.5(h)(1) as to counts 5 and 6. The information indicated the effect of the allegation was a minimum sentence of 15 days. Before sentencing, the prosecutor filed a sentencing brief requesting the court to sentence Wilford under counts 5 and 6 to a term of two, four, or five years under section 273.5(f)(1). This term could be doubled to four, eight, or 10 years based on Wilford's prior strike conviction. Wilford argues his sentence for counts 5 and 6 must be reversed because it was not properly pled in the information. Specifically, he contends that because the prosecutor pled an enhancement under section 273.5(h)(1) instead of section 273.5(f)(1), the court could not sentence him under the two, four, or five year triad. Due process requires that a criminal defendant be given fair notice of the charges to provide an opportunity to prepare a defense and to avoid unfair surprise at trial. The Court of Appeal reversed the sentence on those two counts and remanded this matter to the superior court for resentencing as to those two counts only. View "California v. Wilford" on Justia Law

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Defendants Kiesha Smith and Michael Mitchell appealed their convictions for the murder of Josephine Kelley. In a prior opinion, the Court of Appeal reversed both convictions due to prejudicial error in the joint trial before separate juries. The State petitioned the Supreme Court for review with respect to reversal of Mitchell's conviction on the grounds the trial court erred in admitting against Mitchell, as statements against interest, hearsay evidence of statements made by codefendant Smith in which she inculpated Mitchell in the murder. The Supreme Court granted review on this issue and remanded this case back to the Court of Appeal reconsideration in light of California v. Grimes (2016) 1 Cal.5th 698 (Grimes). After reconsideration, a majority of the Court of Appeal found no error in the admission of evidence of statements Smith made which inculpated Mitchell. The Court also rejected the other issues Mitchell raised on appeal. Accordingly, Smith's conviction was once again reversed, but Mitchell's affirmed. View "California v. Smith" on Justia Law

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The California Department of State Hospitals (department) designated two psychologists (Dr. Robert Karlsson and Dr. Marcia Asgarian) to evaluate petitioner Douglas Snyder to determine whether he was a sexually violent predator (SVP) as defined in the Sexually Violent Predator Act (SVPA). Dr. Karlsson determined Snyder was an SVP; Dr. Asgarian determined he was not. Before the department deemed Dr. Asgarian’s report final, the department determined that her report did not meet minimum quality standards pursuant to the department’s quality assurance processes and could not be revised to meet those standards with the time available. The department “undesignated” her, revoked her report, and designated a third psychologist (Dr. Douglas Korpi) to take her place as the second evaluator. After Dr. Korpi determined Snyder was an SVP, the director of the department requested that the Sacramento County District Attorney file a petition for Snyder’s commitment under the SVPA, which the district attorney did. When Snyder’s attorney learned about Dr. Asgarian’s report during the course of the probable cause hearing on the SVPA petition, he moved to dismiss the petition based on the department’s failure to arrange for two independent professionals to evaluate Snyder under the Act. The Court of Appeals concluded the department’s quality assurance processes were not consistent with section 6601 because they were not part of the standardized assessment protocol mandated by the statute. Nothing in section 6601, or any other part of the SVPA, allowed an evaluator’s supervisor to undesignate an evaluator because the supervisor questioned the report's quality. However, the department’s failure to comply with the statute did not warrant dismissal of the SVPA petition and release of Snyder from custody. Rather, the proper relief here was to direct the department to follow the commands of section 6601 and appoint two independent professionals to evaluate Snyder. View "In re Snyder" on Justia Law

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Voters passed Proposition 57 on November 8, 2016, effective the next day. As relevant here, the new law eliminated the State’s ability to directly file criminal charges against a juvenile defendant in a court of criminal jurisdiction (Adult Court). Jeremy Walker was charged with two counts of attempted premeditated murder and one count of active participation in a gang. He was seventeen at the time of the alleged crimes. A jury found Walker guilty as charged. The jury also found firearm and gang enhancements true. The trial court sentenced Walker to 80 years to life in prison. In May 2015, the Court of Appeal ruled that the trial court erred in admitting certain evidence at Walker's trial and reversed his convictions. In September 2015, the remittitur issued in Walker's appeal. Since the issuance of the remittitur, Walker waited for retrial. While waiting, Proposition 57 became effective, and Walker moved to transfer his case from Adult Court to Juvenile Court. Walker argued Proposition 57 applied retroactively to his case. The trial court agreed; the State appealed, and the Court of Appeal reversed, finding Proposition 57 did not apply here. View "California v. Super. Ct." on Justia Law

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Defendant, a professional masseur, appealed the judgment entered after he pleaded guilty to sodomizing and orally copulating a victim who was incapable of giving consent because of a developmental disability. The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's eight year sentence, holding that defendant forfeited his sentencing claims because he did not object at the time of sentencing. Even if defendant timely and specifically objected, the trial court would not have abused its discretion in imposing the six year middle term on the first count and imposing consecutive sentences. View "People v. Sperling" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Defendant was convicted of charges stemming from him driving his car onto the Venice Beach Boardwalk and plowing into 10 separate groups of people in close succession. The Court of Appeal affirmed, holding that the prosecutor's reference to defendant's post-Miranda silence was a fair response to defendant's trial testimony that he cooperated fully with police, and defendant was properly convicted of 10 counts of fleeing the scene of an accident because there were 10 distinct accidents after which he could have stopped and rendered aid but did not. View "People v. Campbell" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law