Justia Criminal Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal
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Defendant Arnell Williams appealed after a trial court denied his motion to dismiss a petition for revocation filed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR). Defendant contended the court erred when it confirmed the prerelease determination of CDCR that he was a "high-risk sex offender" requiring him to be supervised by parole under Penal Code section 3000.08(a)(4), and not be placed in postrelease community supervision (PRCS) under section 3450 et seq. After review, the Court of Appeal independently concluded defendant was subject to parole supervision as a result of his 1984 convictions for forcible rape, rape in concert, and robbery, which qualified as serious and/or violent felonies within the meaning of subdivision (a)(1) and (2) of section 3000.08, respectively. As such, the Court deemed it unnecessary to determine whether defendant was also subject to such supervision as a result of his high-risk sex offender classification. Therefore, it affirmed the trial court's denial. View "California v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Arce and Burk were charged with the first-degree murder of Hamilton (Penal Code 187(a)), with a special circumstance allegation that Arce committed the murder while actively participating in a criminal street gang (section 190.2(a)(22)). Arce was also charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm (29800(a)(1)). The indictment further alleged the crimes were committed for the benefit of a criminal street gang (186.22(b)(1)) and that Arce personally discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury (12022.53). Arce’s prior convictions included a 2011 conviction for carrying a concealed firearm and a 2012 conviction for discharging a firearm with gross negligence. The indictment also included prior strike and prison term allegations. Convicted, Arce was sentenced to a term of life without the possibility of parole. The court of appeal affirmed. The court rejected arguments that the criminal street gang special circumstance statute is unconstitutionally vague; that the trial court erred in failing to instruct the jury on the lesser included offense of voluntary manslaughter under a theory of imperfect self-defense; that the court improperly instructed the jury on the consideration of accomplice testimony; and of cumulative error. The government conceded that the abstract of judgment must be corrected to reflect the imposition of a concurrent term for the firearm conviction. View "People v. Arce" on Justia Law

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After defendant obtained a bail bond but did not appear as ordered, the trial court forfeited the bond and entered summary judgment on the bond against the bond's surety. Almost two years later, the surety moved to set aside the summary judgment under Code of Civil Procedure section 473, subdivision (d), based on the ground that the trial court's failure to inquire into defendant's ability to pay when setting bail rendered the bond (and hence the summary judgment) "void." The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of the surety's motion, holding that the trial court acted within its discretion in denying relief. The court reasoned that the trial court would have abused its discretion had it awarded the relief the surety sought. The court published to explain the many reasons why the surety's argument must be rejected as a matter of law. View "People v. The North River Insurance Co." on Justia Law

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Based on allegations that the minor exposed himself to (Penal Code 314.1) and solicited sex from his 14-year-old female classmate and touched another classmate in a sexual manner (Penal Code 242), the juvenile court placed the minor on probation with multiple conditions. The court of appeal struck an electronics search condition. Nothing in the record establishes that the electronics search condition is valid as “reasonably related to future criminality,” and a treatment provider’s finding of “therapeutic necessity” at some later date is not equivalent to a finding that the burden imposed is proportional to the legitimate interests served by the condition. The court modified conditions relating to fees, the possession of materials or items that have a primary purpose of causing sexual arousal, and the minor’s proximity to the campus or grounds of any school unless enrolled, accompanied, or authorized. The court upheld conditions relating to psychological evaluations and polygraph testing, View "In re David C." on Justia Law

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Petitioner sought a petition for writ of mandate, contending that his motion to dismiss should have been granted because the failure to hold a timely preliminary hearing violated the statutory time requirements of Penal Code section 859b and his constitutional right to a speedy trial. The Court of Appeal granted the petition, holding that, where an in-custody defendant is arraigned on an amended complaint, section 859b requires that the preliminary hearing be held within 10 court days of that arraignment unless there is a personal time waiver by the defendant or good cause for a continuance. In this case, petitioner was not held within the 10-day period prescribed by section 859b and he did not personally waive his right to a preliminary hearing within that time period. Therefore, section 859b mandates dismissal of the amended complaint against him. View "Garcia v. Superior Court of Los Angeles County" on Justia Law

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Jennifer and Shane are the parents of a daughter they have jointly parented since her birth in 2009. In 2017, 10 years after a “dating” relationship ended, Jennifer sought a domestic violence restraining order (DVRO) from the San Francisco County Superior Court, stating that Shane “has been verbally abusive and physically violent with me since I met him … our daughter is the product of a rape … having endured his abuse for many years, abuse which continues.” The court denied the request for a DVRO, dissolved a temporary restraining order, and explained the bases of its determinations at considerable length. The court of appeal affirmed, upholding a finding that one of Shane’s alleged prior acts, punching a refrigerator close to Jennifer’s head, did not constitute “abuse” under the Domestic Violence Prevention Act. The court reasoned that the issue was credibility and deferred to the trial court’s finding that the act was not “an intentional or reckless act that causes or attempts to cause bodily injury.” The court rejected an argument that gender bias disqualified the judge as a matter of due process. “An objective assessment of Judge Darwin’s conduct reveals it to be exemplary in every respect.” View "Jennifer K. v. Shane K." on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Jeremiah Williams guilty of first degree robbery, four counts of making a criminal threat, two counts of forcible rape, sexual penetration by use of force, forcible oral copulation, burglary of an inhabited dwelling, battery and assault, as lesser offenses of sodomy by use of force, assault with a deadly weapon, and false imprisonment by violence. The first eight counts were committed against Jane Doe 1; the remaining counts against Jane Doe 2. The jury found defendant committed all counts but one: forcible sexual offenses against more than one victim. The trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 100 years to life plus 86 years two months. It also imposed a $10,000 restitution fine, and a matching suspended parole revocation restitution fine (and other fees and assessments). Defendant raised six enumerations of error at trial, but finding none, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Williams" on Justia Law

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Defendant, who was 18 years old at the time of the attempted murders and 21 years old when he committed murder, seeks remand of his cause for a hearing under People v. Franklin (2016) 63 Cal.4th 261, because his counsel stipulated, without his consent, to limit information regarding youth-related mitigating factors to a written submission following the sentencing hearing. The Court of Appeal held that counsel's stipulation to file the Franklin package after the sentencing hearing and without presentation of live testimony did not violate defendant's constitutional rights. The court also held that defendant's ineffective assistance of counsel claim should be presented in a petition for writ of habeas corpus. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment, ordering a correction on the abstract of judgment to reflect the sentence. View "People v. Sepulveda" on Justia Law

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Defendants were convicted of numerous crimes related to a 2007 robbery of a casino and a conspiracy to rob the casino again a year later. After defendants' convictions were conditionally reversed in a prior appeal, the prosecution moved to strike defendants' pleas of once in jeopardy. The trial court granted the motion and reinstated the prior judgments. The Court of Appeal held that the motion to strike defendants' double jeopardy plea was properly granted; Defendants Williams, Joseph, and Lewis have not shown prejudicial Sanchez error; and the court accepted the jury's concession that the 10 year personal firearm enhancement imposed on count 28 must be stricken as to Williams. The court remanded for the trial court to apply newly enacted legislation, Senate Bills 620 and 1393, to its sentencing decisions. View "People v. Bell" on Justia Law

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Defendant was convicted of two counts of murder, three counts of attempted murder, street terrorism, and possession of a firearm by a felon. In the initial opinion, the court affirmed defendant's convictions but reversed the trial court's imposition of a $200 parole revocation fine and order denying defendant custody credit. On remand from the Supreme Court and in light of People v. Canizales (2019) 7 Cal.5th 591, the Court of Appeal held that the kill zone instruction should not have been given, but that the error was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt in light of the overwhelming evidence that defendant intended to kill all five of the men at whom he shot. The court restated its original opinion without change in all other respects. View "People v. Mariscal" on Justia Law