Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's grant of defendant's motion to dismiss a petition to have him civilly committed under the Sexually Violent Predators Act (SVPA), because he was deprived of his due process right to a speedy trial.Applying the four factors in the Barker analysis, the court held that neither the length of the delay, the assertion of the right, the reasons for the delay, or prejudice is a necessary or sufficient condition to the finding of a deprivation of the right of speedy trial. Rather, the court held that they are related factors and must be considered together with such other circumstances as may be relevant. In this case, the trial court engaged in that balancing process and concluded that the state had failed defendant. Whether the court reviewed this determination under the abuse of discretion standard or, as the People assert, under a de novo standard, the court found no error based on the analysis. The court also held that, under the Mathews analysis, defendant's right to be free from government restraint without due process of law has been violated. The court rejected the People's cursory contention that the case should be ordered to trial and held that the trial court did not err in dismissing the petition. View "People v. DeCasas" on Justia Law

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When a parolee accepts a court's offer to admit a parole violation for a specified sentence and expressly waives his right to the preliminary and final parole hearings, he has waived his statutory right to have a preparation of a written report under Penal Code section 1203.2, subdivision (b)(1).First, the Court of Appeal held that a defendant's express waiver of his constitutional and statutory rights to a preliminary, probable cause hearing and a formal revocation hearing in order to obtain a specific disposition necessarily—albeit implicitly—includes a waiver of his statutory right to have the trial court refer the district attorney's petition to the parole agency to obtain that agency’s input regarding the appropriate disposition. Second, the court held that a defendant's waiver of the right to insist that the trial court refer the district attorney's petition to the parole agency and consider the agency's responsive report need not be express.The court affirmed the revocation order in this case where the petition to revoke parole was filed by the district attorney and the trial court did not refer that petition to the parole agency for a report before it accepted defendant's admission to a parole violation during the hearing that was originally set for the probable cause determination. View "People v. Kurianski" on Justia Law

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Defendant petitioned to seal his arrest record pursuant to Penal Code section 851.91 after pleading no contest to possession of a controlled substance and successfully completing treatment and probation pursuant to section 1210.1.The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's order denying defendant's petition where the court cannot conclude that "no conviction occurred" such that defendant should be entitled to relief under section 851.91, subdivision (a)(1)(B)(i). The court explained that while defendant's arrest and conviction are deemed never to have occurred for most purposes, it is not the equivalent of a defendant who was arrested but never convicted. Rather, because defendant's arrest and conviction still exist for some purposes, he is in a markedly different position from someone who was never convicted at all. View "People v. D.C." on Justia Law

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Cruz, who had an outstanding felony warrant for taking a vehicle without the owner’s consent, was found sitting in the driver's seat of a stolen car. Crue pled guilty under Vehicle Code 10851(a). The probation report explained that Cruz, 21 years old, was born in El Salvador, and he came to the U.S. when he was 16; it described his use of alcohol and drugs as “[m]oderate.” The proposed probation conditions included that Cruz “shall not use, consume, possess or transport alcohol . . . [or] marijuana ” and required Cruz to submit to chemical testing and complete a drug assessment. The court suspended the imposition of sentence and placed Cruz on three years of probation. Defense counsel argued that alcohol and marijuana are legal substances and that Cruz’s offense was not related to drug use. Cruz had admitted that on the day of the arrest, he smoked marijuana.The trial court struck the no-alcohol condition but imposed a condition prohibiting Cruz from using or consuming marijuana. The court of appeal struck the marijuana-related conditions as having no relationship to the crime of conviction and not reasonably related to preventing Cruz’s future criminality. Cruz has never been accused of a drug-related offense and does not currently suffer from a substance abuse problem. View "People v. Cruz" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed defendant's conviction and sentence for two counts of assault with a semiautomatic firearm (one for each of two victims), one count of possession of a firearm by a felon, and one count of assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury.The court held that defendant has not shown in this appeal that his trial attorney provided ineffective assistance at trial because the record does not disclose why his lawyer chose not to call the witness or that his attorney's decision was below the standard of care. The court also held that the trial court did not have discretion to impose concurrent sentences on the two convictions for assault with a semiautomatic firearm. The court stated that Proposition 36 eliminated a trial court's discretion to impose concurrent sentences on convictions for multiple serious or violent felonies. View "People v. Henderson" on Justia Law

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In October 2019, Christopher Frezier was found not guilty by reason of insanity of a felony offense. The trial court committed him to a state hospital pursuant to Penal Code section 1026. At the time of the commitment, the trial court calculated Frezier’s maximum term of commitment as three years with credits for 829 days, consisting of credits for both the actual time served in custody prior to his commitment and conduct credits pursuant to section 4019 for the time spent in county jail. Despite his commitment to a state hospital to receive treatment, Frezier was never transported to a hospital and instead, was left in the county jail for unknown reasons. After spending almost one year in jail after his commitment, Frezier filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus asserting that he was entitled to immediate release because he had served his maximum term of commitment, after accounting for his precommitment custody and conduct credits combined with the additional time served in the county jail postcommitment. The trial court agreed and granted relief, ordering that Frezier be released. The District Attorney sought extraordinary relief and an immediate stay to prevent Frezier’s release by petitioning for a writ of mandate. The District Attorney argued Frezier was not entitled to section 4019 conduct credits under the relevant statutes. The Court of Appeal concluded that under the plain language of the relevant statutes, Frezier served more than his maximum term of commitment and the District Attorney failed to demonstrate any error warranting extraordinary relief. The Court, therefore, denied the District Attorney’s writ petition. View "California v. Superior Court (Frezier)" on Justia Law

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In 1996, a jury found defendant Vincent Lombardo guilty of second degree murder. In 2019, defendant filed a petition for resentencing under newly enacted Penal Code section 1170.95, which was enacted as part of Senate Bill No. 1437 (Stats. 2018, ch. 1015). The superior court denied the petition because, in its view, Senate Bill 1437 impermissibly amended Proposition 7 (Ballot Pamp., Gen. Elec. (Nov. 7, 1978) text of Prop. 7) and Proposition 115 (Ballot Pamp., Primary Elec. (June 5, 1990) text of Prop. 115). The Court of Appeal disagreed with the superior court and agreed with the unanimous conclusion of other appellate courts that have addressed the issue: Senate Bill 1437 was not an invalid amendment of either Propositions 7 or 115. Though the superior court did not clearly rule on the issue, the parties also asked the Court of Appeal to determine whether Senate Bill 1437 violated Marsy’s Law (Ballot Pamp., Gen. Elec. (Nov. 4, 2008) text of Prop. 9). To this, the Court concluded it did not, thereby agreeing with the unanimous conclusion of other appellate courts on this issue too. Judgment was reversed and the matter remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Lombardo" on Justia Law

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Penal Code section 1538.5 does not require the trial court to hold an evidentiary hearing when the defendant's stated issue to be decided is not relevant to the motion to suppress.After defendant was charged with misdemeanor resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer in violation of Penal Code section 148, subdivision (a)(1), he moved to suppress all tangible and intangible evidence pursuant to section 1538.5 on the ground that his initial detention was unlawful. The Court of Appeal denied the motion to suppress, holding that defendant was not entitled to an evidentiary hearing. View "People v. Chavez" on Justia Law

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Pursuant to a plea bargain, minor K.W. admitted one count of robbery; counts alleging kidnapping, brandishing, and vandalism were dismissed. After he completed probation, he moved to seal the record under Welfare and Institutions Code section 786. He was not eligible for sealing, because robbery was one of the crimes listed in section 707(b). The trial court reduced the adjudication to the lesser included offense of grand theft, which was not a section 707(b) offense. The court then granted the motion to seal. The State appealed, contending: (1) the juvenile court lacked the authority to reduce the adjudication; and (2) reducing the adjudication violated the plea bargain. The Court of Appeal determined the statutes the juvenile court cited did not give it authority to reduce the conviction. Further, the Court held Welfare and Institutions Code section 782, which would allow the juvenile court to “set aside the findings and dismiss the petition” in the interest of justice, did not authorize the juvenile court to reduce an adjudication, at least when doing so would violate a plea bargain, as it would have here. Judgment was therefore reversed. View "In re K.W." on Justia Law

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Deputies responded to a domestic violence report. J.E. had left the house. J.E.'s Mother signed a citizen’s arrest form for battery. The deputies saw J.E. outside, went to J.E. in their marked patrol car, identified themselves, and told J.E. they needed to escort her home. J.E. ignored their commands. The deputies grabbed her arms. J.E. began “flailing,” spit at the deputies, and kicked another vehicle, causing a dent. The deputies placed J.E. in the patrol car. J.E. kicked an officer in the stomach.A juvenile wardship petition alleged misdemeanor battery upon a peace officer and misdemeanor resisting, obstructing, or delaying a peace officer. Mother reported that J.E. had previously hit her and threatened to kill her. School records showed J.E. was suspended twice for being physically aggressive and making threats toward staff and was disciplined several times for unexcused absences, disrupting class, using profanity, and being under the influence of marijuana. Mother testified that J.E. was 11 when she began living with Mother, having previously lived with her grandmother. Mother stated she never taught J.E. the difference between right and wrong and never taught J.E. to respect police commands. The court found that J.E. understood the wrongfulness of her conduct, sustained the wardship petition, and placed J.E. on probation. The court of appeal affirmed, finding sufficient evidence that J.E. appreciated the wrongfulness of her conduct, as required for minors under the age of 14. (Pen. Code 26). View "In re J.E." on Justia Law