Articles Posted in Criminal Law

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The collection requirement of Proposition 69, known as the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act” (DNA Act), is constitutional as applied to an individual who, like Defendant, was validly arrested on “probable cause to hold for a serious offense” and who was required to swab his cheek as part of a “routine booking procedure” at county jail. Defendant was arrested for arson and related felonies and transported to jail. At booking, Defendant was informed that he was required to provide a DNA sample by swabbing the inside of his cheek. Defendant refused and was later convicted of both the arson-related felonies and the misdemeanor offense of refusing to provide a specimen required by the DNA Act. After the case was remanded, the Court of Appeal reversed Defendant’s misdemeanor refusal conviction on the ground that the DNA Act violates the state Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) it was reasonable under both the Fourth Amendment and Cal. Const. art. I, 13 to require Defendant to swab his cheek as part of a routine jail booking procedure following a valid arrest for felony arson; and (2) therefore, Defendant was subject to the statutory penalties prescribed in Cal. Penal Code 298.1. View "People v. Buza" on Justia Law

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The collection requirement of Proposition 69, known as the “DNA Fingerprint, Unsolved Crime and Innocence Protection Act” (DNA Act), is constitutional as applied to an individual who, like Defendant, was validly arrested on “probable cause to hold for a serious offense” and who was required to swab his cheek as part of a “routine booking procedure” at county jail. Defendant was arrested for arson and related felonies and transported to jail. At booking, Defendant was informed that he was required to provide a DNA sample by swabbing the inside of his cheek. Defendant refused and was later convicted of both the arson-related felonies and the misdemeanor offense of refusing to provide a specimen required by the DNA Act. After the case was remanded, the Court of Appeal reversed Defendant’s misdemeanor refusal conviction on the ground that the DNA Act violates the state Constitution’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures. The Supreme Court reversed, holding (1) it was reasonable under both the Fourth Amendment and Cal. Const. art. I, 13 to require Defendant to swab his cheek as part of a routine jail booking procedure following a valid arrest for felony arson; and (2) therefore, Defendant was subject to the statutory penalties prescribed in Cal. Penal Code 298.1. View "People v. Buza" on Justia Law

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Statutory developments warranted modification of a settlement order between Petitioner and the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to relieve the Board of any obligation to calculate “base terms” of an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence for use at the inmate’s initial parole hearing. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in December 2012 against the Board seeking to avoid parole determinations leading to grossly disproportionate prison terms. An ensuing settlement agreement required the Board to calculate “base terms” under the agreement. At the time of the agreement, “base terms” governed the earliest possible release date for inmates serving indeterminate sentences. Since then, statutory developments altered the statutory landscape such that “base terms” no longer governed the release dates of inmates subject to indeterminate sentences. The Court of Appeal concluded that the settlement order could remain in force despite the statutory changes. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the elimination of “base term” calculations from any statutory role in determining release dates for those sentenced to indeterminate terms was a sufficiently material change that it required modification of the settlement by the Court of Appeal; and (2) the Board was not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the settlement order. View "In re Butler" on Justia Law

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Statutory developments warranted modification of a settlement order between Petitioner and the Board of Parole Hearings (Board) to relieve the Board of any obligation to calculate “base terms” of an inmate serving an indeterminate sentence for use at the inmate’s initial parole hearing. Petitioner filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus in December 2012 against the Board seeking to avoid parole determinations leading to grossly disproportionate prison terms. An ensuing settlement agreement required the Board to calculate “base terms” under the agreement. At the time of the agreement, “base terms” governed the earliest possible release date for inmates serving indeterminate sentences. Since then, statutory developments altered the statutory landscape such that “base terms” no longer governed the release dates of inmates subject to indeterminate sentences. The Court of Appeal concluded that the settlement order could remain in force despite the statutory changes. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the elimination of “base term” calculations from any statutory role in determining release dates for those sentenced to indeterminate terms was a sufficiently material change that it required modification of the settlement by the Court of Appeal; and (2) the Board was not constitutionally required to continue calculating base terms as required in the settlement order. View "In re Butler" on Justia Law

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Defendant was not eligible for resentencing under Proposition 47 because if Proposition 47 had been in effect when Defendant committed his offense in 2007, he would still be guilty of a felony not covered by Proposition 47. Proposition 47, enacted in 2014, reduced certain drug- and theft-related offenses from felonies to misdemeanors and authorized inmates currently serving sentences for a reclassified crime to petition the court for resentencing. As relevant to this appeal, Defendant filed a petition for resentencing on a felony conviction of transportation of methamphetamine. The trial court found Defendant ineligible for resentencing on the transportation offense. On appeal, the court of appeal held, among other things, that only offenders convicted of a felony offense enumerated in Proposition 47’s resentencing provision may have their crimes reduced to misdemeanors. The Supreme Court disagreed, holding (1) the mere fact that former Cal. Health & Safety Code 11379 is not one of the code sections enumerated in Cal. Penal Code 1170.18(a) is not fatal to Defendant’s petition for resentencing on his transportation offense; but (2) the court of appeals correctly found that Defendant was ineligible for resentencing because if Proposition 47 had been in effect when he committed his offense in 2007, he would still be guilty of a felony not covered by Proposition 47. View "People v. Martinez" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court granted Petitioner’s petition for writ of habeas corpus and vacated the judgment of conviction because false evidence was introduced at trial. Petitioner, Vincente Benavides Figueroa, was convicted of murder - committed with the special circumstances of felony-murder rape sodomy, and lewd conduct - and rape, sodomy, and lewd conduct. Petitioner was sentenced to death. Petitioner later filed a petition or habeas corpus relief, asserting that false evidence, now repudiated or undermined, resulted in his convictions and the special circumstances findings. The Supreme Court issued an order to show cause on Petitioner's claims that his convictions were based on false evidence and that he received ineffective assistance of counsel. Respondent, the Secretary of the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, conceded that Petitioner was entitled to relief based upon the introduction of false evidence and argued that the murder conviction should be revised from first to second degree. The Supreme Court disagreed and vacated the judgment in its entirety, holding that a reduction to second degree murder was not warranted. View "In re Figueroa" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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Resentencing is available to defendants who were serving felony sentences on Proposition 47’s effective date but whose judgments were on appeal and thus not yet final only in accordance with the statutory resentencing procedure in Cal. Penal Code 1170.18. Approved by voters in 2014, Proposition 47 reduces many theft- and drug-related offenses from felonies to misdemeanors for offender who do not have prior convictions for specified violent or serious offenses. Proposition 47 also permits eligible defendants who were serving felony sentences as of Proposition 47’s effective date to obtain the benefit of these changes by petition for resentencing. The resentencing petition must be granted unless the court determines that resentencing a defendant would pose an unreasonable risk of danger to public safety. At issue was whether defendants whose judgments were not yet final were entitled to automatic resentencing under Proposition 47 or whether these defendants must seek resentencing through the statutory resentencing procedure. The Supreme Court held the latter. View "People v. DeHoyos" on Justia Law

Posted in: Criminal Law

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The Supreme Court reversed Defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to murder Dean Noyes for lack of territorial jurisdiction and affirmed in all other respects the judgment convicting Defendant of first degree murder and conspiracy to murder his wife, Carole Garton, and her fetus. The Supreme Court held (1) any error in the trial court’s ruling prohibiting Defendant from wearing his wedding ring during trial was harmless; (2) the trial court did not err by allowing the prosecution’s investigating officers to bypass metal detectors while entering the courthouse; (3) Defendant was not prejudiced by the introduction of hearsay statements by the county coroner concerning the state of Carole’s body and her cause of death; (4) the trial court erred in finding that it had jurisdiction over the charge that Defendant conspired to murder Dean in Oregon; (5) any error in the trial court’s instructions to the jury was harmless; (6) the trial court did not err in denying Defendant’s motion for entry of judgment of acquittal; and (7) there was no cumulative error requiring reversal of Defendant’s convictions. View "People v. Garton" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed Defendant’s convictions for murder, residential robbery, residential burglary, and vehicle theft and Defendant’s sentence of death for the murder, holding that any potential error was harmless and that none of the potential errors were cumulatively prejudicial. On appeal, the Supreme Court held (1) Defendant failed to establish that any conflict of interest adversely affected his counsel’s performance; (2) any error resulting from Defendant’s absence from two discussions about counsel’s supposed conflict of interest was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (3) any challenged comments made by the judge did not disqualify the judge from presiding over the trial; (4) the trial judge’s choice to limit counsel’s time to question jurors during voir dire was not an abuse of discretion; (5) the trial court did not abuse its discretion in choosing to remove a seated juror during the guilt phase proceedings; (6) the prosecutor did not engage in impermissible misconduct; (7) any error in the trial court’s evidentiary rulings was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt; (8) any error in the trial court’s instructions to the jury was harmless; and (8) Defendant’s sentence did not violate the Eighth Amendment’s requirement of proportionate sentencing. View "People v. Perez" on Justia Law

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The sentences imposed on Defendants, two juvenile nohomicide offenders, violated the Eighth Amendment as interpreted in People v. Caballero, 55 Cal.4th 262, 268 (2012) and Graham v. Florida, 460 U.S. 48 (2010). Defendants, Leonel Contreras and William Rodriguez, were convicted in a joint trial of kidnapping and sexual offenses that they committed when they were sixteen years old. Contreras was sentenced to a term of fifty-eight years to life, and Rodriguez was sentenced to a term of fifty years to life. The Court of Appeal affirmed Defendants’ convictions but reversed their sentences and remanded for resentencing, holding that Defendants’ sentences fell short of giving them a realistic chance for release, as contemplated by Graham. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that Defendants’ sentences violated the Eighth Amendment under the standards articulated in Graham. The court directed the sentencing court, upon resentencing, any mitigating circumstances of Defendants’ lives and crimes and the impact of any new legislation and regulations on appropriate sentencing. View "People v. Contreras" on Justia Law