Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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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

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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

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Defendant Marsha Woods was on probation for two prior offenses when she was arrested and charged with five theft- and drug-related offenses. Under a plea agreement, she agreed to plead guilty to one count of attempted burglary and admit one strike prior, and to serve concurrent sentences of 16 months on the current offense and seven years on each of the probation cases. In exchange, the prosecution agreed to dismiss the remaining charges and allegations. The trial court accepted the plea. At sentencing, however, after expressing frustration at the parties' disagreement over the proper calculation of custody credits, the trial court sentenced defendant to 16 months for the current offense and terminated probation on her earlier cases, reasoning the stipulated seven-year sentences on the probation cases were "just about eaten up by credits." The State appealed, contending the sentence imposed by the trial court was not within the bounds of the parties' plea agreement. The Court agreed the sentence imposed by the trial court is not within the bounds of the parties' plea agreement. The Court also rejected defendant's contentions as to forfeiture, prejudice, and mootness. View "California v. Woods" on Justia Law

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Police identified an IP address for an Internet account sharing child pornography online. Comcast identified the account subscriber as Reynolds at 309 South 23rd Street in San José. The police obtained a search warrant for the residence, garages, and outbuildings at the address. While searching Reynolds’ house, the police discovered Nguyen, a Mountain View police officer, was living in a separate residence behind the house. The police then searched Nguyen’s residence and found a laptop with child pornography. Based on a computer found in the main house, Reynolds’s husband was also charged with possession of child pornography. The trial court granted Nguyen’s motion to suppress. The court of appeals affirmed. The police lacked probable cause to search Nguyen’s residence. The warrant did not expressly authorize the search, and the police lacked good faith reliance on the warrant. The warrant did not mention Nguyen; the police had no reason to believe that Nguyen had access to the Reynolds Internet account. When police realized the rear structure was a separate residence, the law required them to halt their search and seek an additional warrant. View "People v. Nguyen" on Justia Law

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This appeal presented the issue of whether the fees imposed on criminal defendants convicted of certain drug offenses were subject to additional penalty assessments under Penal Code section 1464 and Government Code section 76000. Health and Safety Code section 11372.5 imposed a criminal laboratory analysis fee not to exceed $50, and section 11372.7 imposed a drug program fee not to exceed $150. The trial court added penalty assessments to the criminal laboratory analysis fee imposed on defendant Zack Uriah Moore, III, after his conviction of section 11550, subdivision (a), for being under the influence of a controlled substance. The Court of Appeal concluded the levy imposed under section 11372.5 constituted a fine or penalty subject to penalty assessments imposed by Penal Code section 1464 and Government Code section 76000. Despite the similarity of language used in sections 11372.5 and 11372.7, the Court did not reach the issue of the applicability of penalty assessments to 11372.7’s drug program fee. The trial court did not impose the drug program fee, and the appellate division erroneously construed a silent record as indicating a failure by the trial court to exercise its discretion in considering whether to impose the drug program fee. View "California v. Moore" on Justia Law