Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

by
The sexual abuse of Jane occurred for two years ending in 1994 when she was 13. At the time of the offenses, the statute of limitations was six years. An extension allowed the filing of a criminal complaint within one year of a report to a law enforcement agency by a person alleging he was the victim of such an offense while under 18 years of age if the offense involved substantial sexual conduct and there is independent corroborating evidence, Penal Code 803(f). Jane’s mother had attempted to report the abuse to the police and Child Protective Services in 1994, without results. Jane, as an adult, reported Brown’s conduct in December 2012; he was charged in February 2013. Convicted of continuous sexual abuse of a child under the age of 14 years old and eight counts of lewd acts upon a child under the age of 14 years, Brown argued the prosecution was time-barred. The court of appeal affirmed, holding that a report of sexual abuse made to law enforcement by a person or agency other than the victim does not constitute a report by the victim under former section 803(g), even if that report is based on the victim’s allegations of abuse. View "People v. Brown" on Justia Law

by
Petitioner, J.N., 17 years old at the time of the alleged offenses, was charged with murder. The evidence presented at the hearing in juvenile court established he did not kill anyone. The murder was committed while J.N. and two other minors, including the killer, were tagging (making graffiti) in a rival gang’s claimed territory. The killing occurred when the three minors were surprised by an adult rival gang member. The rival approached S.C., who pulled out a gun to scare the man. Undeterred, the man grabbed the gun in S.C.’s hand and a struggle ensued. Shots were fired as they wrestled over the gun. J.N. and the other minor stood frozen nearby. After the passage of Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, the superior court suspended criminal proceedings and certified J.N. to the juvenile court to determine whether he should be treated in the juvenile court system or prosecuted as an adult. The juvenile court determined J.N. was not suitable for treatment in the juvenile court. J.N. filed a petition for a writ of mandate/prohibition, arguing the court abused its discretion in applying Welfare and Institutions Code section 707. The Court of Appeal determined a trial court must consider five statutory factors in making its decision whether the minor should be tried as an adult. Relevant here were two : (1) the circumstances and gravity of the charged offense; and (2) whether the minor could be rehabilitated prior to the expiration of the juvenile court’s jurisdiction. The Court of Appeal found the juvenile court’s determination J.N. was not suitable for treatment in the juvenile court was not supported by substantial evidence and was, therefore, an abuse of discretion. View "J.N. v. Superior Court" on Justia Law

by
After Peter Balov was arrested for suspected drunk driving, the arresting officer advised Balov "that per California law he was required to submit to a chemical test, either a breath or a blood test." Balov did not object and chose a blood test, which showed his blood alcohol level was above the legal limit. Balov was charged with misdemeanor driving under the influence. Before trial, Balov moved to suppress the results of the blood test, arguing primarily that his consent to the test was coerced. The court denied the motion, the appellate division affirmed. Balov brought the same argument to the Court of Appeal, which found no error in the lower court's judgment, and affirmed. View "California v. Balov" on Justia Law

by
In 2011, Williams was charged with felony receiving a stolen vehicle, Penal Code 496d(a), with allegations that Williams had served five prison sentences, one of which was a serious or violent felony. Williams pleaded no contest, admitting the special allegations. The court granted his request to dismiss the prior strike finding, imposed a suspended sentence of seven years, and granted Williams four years of formal probation. In November 2014, Williams filed a petition to recall his sentence, to reduce his conviction to a misdemeanor, and for resentencing (Penal Code 1170.18(b), (d), (f)), arguing the stolen vehicle he received was worth less than $950. Proposition 47 changed the crime of theft from a felony to a misdemeanor when the property involved was valued at $950 or less. The court denied the petition, reasoning that section 1170.18 was specific in listing the offenses that are subject to recall. The court of appeal affirmed, without prejudice to the filing of a new petition. Although section 1170.18 does not expressly reference section 496d, it does permit resentencing under section 490.2 for “obtaining any property by theft” valued at less than $950. A conviction for receiving a stolen vehicle is obtaining property by theft and qualifies for resentencing. Williams, however, failed to demonstrate the value of the stolen vehicle/ View "People v. Williams" on Justia Law

by
Meza, with his girlfriend as a passenger was driving at least 90 mph. As he applied the brakes, he lost control. The car catapulted across the median and oncoming traffic and fell down an embankment. A California Highway Patrol sergeant saw the crash and saw Meza emerge from the driver’s side of the car. Concord police officers arrived. Officer Cruz had a brief conversation with Meza while Meza was waiting for treatment by emergency medical personnel. She noted “a moderate odor of alcoholic beverage coming from his mouth,” and blood-shot and watery eyes. Because Meza was complaining of pain, Cruz did not request field sobriety tests. She concluded that he should be arrested for driving under the influence and followed the ambulance to the hospital. The hospital drew blood, as they do for all trauma patients, and measured Meza’s blood alcohol content (BAC) at 0.148 percent. Two hours after the accident, a second phlebotomist, summoned by Cruz, drew Meza’s blood and measured its BAC at 0.11. Cruz never attempted to get a warrant because Meza did not refuse to have his blood drawn. The court of appeal affirmed the denial of a motion to suppress. The blood draw was inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment because exigent circumstances did not prevent officers from obtaining a warrant but the error was harmless, in light of the evidence of the hospital’s testing. View "People v. Meza" on Justia Law

by
Hall was charged with first-degree murder; the information alleged that Hall personally used a knife in the commission of the crime, that he had prior serious felony convictions, and that he was subject to the three strikes law. Hall admitted to a 2010 misdemeanor conviction for carrying a concealed knife. Before trial, the court reserved judgment on the prosecutor’s motion seeking to impeach defendant with his two first-degree burglary convictions and with the misdemeanor conviction “evidence that he is known to regularly carry knives” if Hall were to “open the door” during his testimony. After the prosecution rested, the court held that both felony convictions could be used to impeach Hall, that under Evidence Code 352 the misdemeanor knife conviction was a crime of moral turpitude, and that the knife conviction could be introduced because of Hall’s statement to the police that he was a peaceful person. The court of appeal reversed. Hall did not put his character for peacefulness at issue. Nothing in his testimony opened the door to impeachment about his character or truthfulness about his character. Hall’s testimony admitted he had lied to the police because he was afraid of retribution; he did not claim to be a peaceful person and did not claim to lack violent prior convictions. View "People v. Hall" on Justia Law

by
A jury found Kerley guilty of second-degree murder in connection with the death of his former girlfriend. The court sentenced Kerley to 15 years to life in state prison. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting arguments that there was insufficient evidence for the jury to conclude that the death was a homicide; the trial court erred in admitting evidence of Kerley’s prior acts of domestic violence under Evidence Code section 11093; the jury instructions regarding the evidence of uncharged domestic violence impermissibly lowered the prosecution’s burden of proof; the admission of certain hearsay statements of the deceased violated Kerley’s confrontation clause rights; the trial court erred in admitting certain hearsay statements of the deceased and defense counsel was ineffective in failing to request a limiting instruction with respect to those statements; the evidence was insufficient to support the jury instructions regarding suppression of evidence; the trial court erred in admitting diary entries of Kerley’s daughter and in admitting evidence that Kerley destroyed a tanning bed and buried the remains of his dog in his backyard; the trial court erred in excluding Kerley’s proffered evidence of third party culpability; and that the cumulative effect of the alleged errors required reversal. View "People v. Kerley" on Justia Law

by
Nicandro Galaviz was committed to a state mental health institution for a term of 60 years to life after he was found not guilty by reason of insanity of possession of methamphetamine and assault with a deadly weapon. In July 2017, Galaviz filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus challenging the commitment order. Galaviz previously filed a petition for a writ of habeas corpus with the trial court. After holding an evidentiary hearing, the court referred to the hearing as something “akin to a retrospective competency hearing” and denied Galaviz’s petition on the ground Galaviz failed to prove he was incompetent at the time of trial. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus filed with the Court of Appeal was granted; the Court found the trial court erred in 1996 by failing to hold a hearing to determine Galaviz’s competence at the time of trial. "Reports filed by mental health professionals in the months preceding trial raised serious doubt about Galaviz’s competence to stand trial. This error constitutes reversible error unless it is feasible to conduct a retrospective competency hearing to now determine whether Galaviz had been competent to stand trial in 1996. The prosecution failed to carry its burden of showing that conducting such a retrospective competency hearing is feasible based on a totality of the circumstances in this case." View "In re Galaviz" on Justia Law

by
The failure to advise the arrestee of his statutory right to choose between a breath and blood test does not run afoul of any constitutional restraint. The Vehicle Code provides that, if a person is lawfully arrested for driving under the influence of a drug or a combination of a drug and alcohol, he shall be advised that he has the choice of submitting to either a blood or breath test. Notwithstanding this statutory directive, the Court of Appeal held that if a peace officer advises the arrestee that his only choice is to submit to a blood test, the test results are admissible in a criminal proceeding provided that the arrestee freely and voluntarily consents to a blood test. In this case, the court affirmed the denial of defendant's motion to suppress the results of a chemical test of defendant's blood where there was ample evidence that he freely and voluntarily consented to a chemical test of his blood. View "People v. Vannesse" on Justia Law

by
Defendant Michael Williams stabbed his wife, victim Tanganyika Hoover Williams, twice in the neck, and she bled to death. The trial court permitted the State to introduce evidence at trial of defendant’s then 23-year-old Oklahoma conviction for shooting with intent to kill, and circumstances leading to that charge. Defendant’s jury found him guilty of first degree murder with personal use of a deadly weapon. The jury then found defendant sane, and the trial court found he had a prior serious felony conviction and prior strike (the Oklahoma conviction). The court sentenced defendant to prison for 50 years to life plus six years. Defendant claimed on appeal, in part, that the trial court abused its discretion when it permitted the State to introduce evidence underlying his Oklahoma conviction. The California Court of Appeal agreed this evidence had scant relevance to this case, and any relevance it did have was vastly outweighed by its potential for unfair prejudice. "This evidence was heavily relied on by the prosecutor in arguing for premeditation and deliberation in what was otherwise not a strong case for first degree murder, thus the error was prejudicial." However, because sufficient evidence (apart from the prior acts evidence) was presented in the case-in-chief to support first degree murder, the Court rejected defendant’s claims that trial counsel should have moved to acquit and that no substantial evidence supported the verdict. Therefore, a retrial on the first degree murder charge was not precluded. View "California v. Williams" on Justia Law