Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Court of Appeal

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In lieu of adjudging minor J.G. a ward of the court based on his commission of trespass and felony vandalism, the juvenile court granted minor deferred entry of judgment and placed him on probation with terms and conditions including payment of restitution to the victim. Because minor eventually satisfied the terms and conditions of his probation with the exception of ordered restitution, the juvenile court terminated probation, dismissed the wardship petition and converted the restitution order to a civil judgment. Minor appealed that order, arguing: (1) the Court of Appeal had jurisdiction to review the juvenile court’s order because the order was a judgment within the meaning of Welfare and Institutions Code section 800(a); (2) a juvenile court can only convert a restitution order to a civil judgment if it has adjudged a minor a ward of the court; and (3) the juvenile court misapplied the law in assessing minor’s ability to pay restitution. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the challenged order was a judgment within the meaning of section 800(a) because the juvenile court rendered a final determination of the rights of the parties in the wardship proceeding; and (2) even if a juvenile court has not adjudged a minor a ward of the court, it can convert an unfulfilled restitution order to a civil judgment when it terminates a minor’s deferred entry of judgment probation and dismisses the wardship petition. In the unpublished portion of this opinion, the Court concluded: (3) minor has not established a misapplication of the law. Accordingly, the Court affirmed the juvenile court. View "In re J.G." on Justia Law

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Defendant Andrew Garcia was sentenced to 35 years to life after a jury convicted him as an adult of attempted murder and other charges for robbing and shooting a woman in the face when he was 15 years old. In this appeal, defendant argued, the State conceded, and the Court of Appeal agreed, that a three-year enhancement for great bodily harm under Penal Code section 12022.7 was unauthorized and should have been stayed. This reduced defendant’s sentence to 32 years to life. Defendant also contended his overall sentence constituted cruel and unusual punishment because the sentencing court did not comply with the requirements in “Miller v. Alabama,” (132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012)) and “California v. Caballero,” (55 Cal.4th 262 (2012)) that it consider his youth and consequent reduced culpability and impose a sentence reflecting these considerations. While the Court of Appeal recognized that considerations of defendant’s youth did not, and by statute could not, play a major part in determining his sentence, the sentence passed constitutional muster because he “shall be eligible for release on parole by the board during his or her 25th year of incarceration at a youth offender parole hearing” pursuant to section 3051. Therefore, the Court affirmed, with directions that the trial court determine whether defendant was afforded an adequate opportunity to make a record that complies with the requirements set forth in “California v. Franklin,” (63 Cal.4th 261 (2016)). View "California v. Garcia" on Justia Law

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This appeal arose out of Victor Garrett and Erion Varnado’s participation in armed robberies and an attempted armed robbery in November 2008. Both Garrett and Varnado were 17 years old when the offenses were committed, but were tried as adults. A jury convicted Garrett of six counts of second degree robbery, two counts of kidnapping for robbery, one count of attempted robbery, and one count of assault with a firearm. For each of the offenses, the jury found true the allegation Garrett personally used a firearm, and as to the assault with a firearm, that Garrett personally discharged a firearm. Garrett was sentenced to serve a total of 74 years and 4 months to life in prison. Varnado was also convicted by a jury of two counts of second degree robbery, one count of attempted robbery, and one count of assault with a firearm. The jury also found true the allegation Varnado personally used a firearm during the assault and attempted robbery. However, the jury found Varnado not guilty of four counts of robbery. The jury was unable to reach a verdict as to: the two counts of kidnapping to commit robbery, whether Varnado personally used a firearm during the second degree robberies, or he discharged a firearm during the attempted robbery. The trial court declared a mistrial as to the counts and enhancements for which the jury could not reach a verdict. On retrial, Varnado was convicted of the remaining two counts of second degree robbery, and the jury found true the allegation he used a firearm during these robberies. The second jury was not asked to decide whether Varnado discharged a firearm during the attempted robbery. Varnado was sentenced to serve a total of 31 years to life in prison. Both appealed. The Court of Appeal found no reversible error and affirmed each defendant's convictions and sentence. View "California v. Garrett" on Justia Law

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Guy Miles served 19 years of his 75 years to life sentence in state prison. A jury convicted him of armed robbery . For all of those years, Miles has claimed that he was wrongfully convicted. The Court of Appeals concluded after review of his arguments on appeal that Miles presented “new evidence” of “such decisive force and value that it would have more likely than not changed the outcome at trial.” Miles’ petition for a writ of habeas corpus was granted, and his convictions vacated. The prosecution could elect to retry Miles within the statutory timeframe. Otherwise, Miles was to be released from custody. View "In re Miles" on Justia Law

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In 2015, Appellant Mic Goodrich filed a motion seeking reclassification of his underlying 2007 felony theft offense under Proposition 47. The court granted the motion, which was unopposed. At the time Goodrich petitioned for and received reclassification of his felony offense, Goodrich was subject to a civil commitment in a state hospital as a mentally disordered offender (MDO). This commitment began in 2008 when Goodrich completed serving his prison sentence. When the State petitioned again in 2015 to have Goodrich recommitted as an MDO, Goodrich opposed the petition on the ground that the felony conviction underlying his original commitment as an MDO had been redesignated as a misdemeanor, and that as a result, he no longer qualified for an MDO commitment. The trial court rejected Goodrich's argument and granted the State’s petition to recommit him. On appeal, Goodrich renewed his argument that the redesignation of his original offense as a misdemeanor means that he no longer meets the criteria for an initial commitment as an MDO, and, therefore, he was entitled to be released from his commitment. After review, the Court of Appeal disagreed with Goodrich's contention and affirmed the trial court's recommitment of Goodrich as an MDO. View "California v. Goodrich" on Justia Law

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When arrested by law enforcement, defendant and admitted felon Sherone Bradley possessed a firearm he admitted possessing before and during the charged offense. Defendant was ultimately convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, and argued on appeal that: (1) the trial court abused its discretion and denied him his constitutional rights when it denied his motion for disclosure of a confidential informant whom defendant claimed entrapped him; and (2) when it sustained a government agent's invocation of the privilege not to testify regarding the informant. The Court of Appeal concluded after review the trial court did not err. Any error, if there was one, was harmless under any standard of prejudicial error. View "California v. Bradley" on Justia Law

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Defendant, approached by police after he was identified as the perpetrator of a robbery, threatened and resisted officers, making reference to his gang affiliation. At trial, the prosecution‘s gang expert testified regarding the history and activities of affiliated gangs and their territories. The expert testified that defendant has numerous tattoos that demonstrate his affiliation with area gangs. The expert identified specific members of the gangs and, presented with hypotheticals that mirrored the circumstances of the incident shown at trial, explained how the hypothesized conduct would benefit a gang. Defendant’s conviction of various offenses, including threatening public officers, was affirmed in 2015. After the California Supreme Court granted review and decided People v. Sanchez (2016), it remanded for reconsideration in light of the Sanchez decision. The court of appeal again affirmed, after analyzing the testimony of the gang expert introduced by the prosecution under both the confrontation clause of the United States Constitution and California‘s hearsay rule. View "People v. Ochoa" on Justia Law

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In May 2015, police detained defendant M.F. at his high school after he gave one of his teachers a letter stating that she "should be worried about getting shot." When detained, he was wearing an empty holster. The police searched M.F.'s backpack and found journals that described a plan to kill individuals associated with schools that he had attended. The journals also contained a list of supplies that he would need to carry out his plan and "hit lists" of potential victims, with various types of "punishments" (such as wound, torture, death, rape, or a combination thereof) next to each name. In addition, one journal entry indicated that M.F. had been "faking it" while participating in anger management and counseling following his 2013 expulsion. At home, police searched M.F.'s bedroom and found 20 rounds of live ammunition, several replica firearms, gun magazines, gun cleaning equipment and gun holsters, including one for a Glock firearm, a handgun case, a folding knife, black ski masks and a balaclava. Police also found tactical gear, including a ballistic helmet, vest and armor plates. Several items found in M.F.'s bedroom had been checked off on his supply list. M.F. told police that he had been involved in a militia for several years, admitted having borrowed a Glock and a rifle from militia members, and that the militia had given him body armor, which he said he used "mostly" for his job as a paintball referee. He claimed that his journal entries were intended to be cathartic and he had no intention of physically harming anyone. Regarding his participation in anger management and decision-making counseling in 2014, he admitted that the programs had been ineffective in helping him appropriately channel his anger. M.F. appealed a juvenile court's disposition order declaring him a ward of the court, committing him to a residential program, and setting probation conditions. He contended the court erred by: (1) admitting cumulative and prejudicial testimony and exhibits at the disposition hearing; (2) committing him to a 480-day residential program; (3) imposing an unconstitutionally overbroad probation condition restricting his possession of electronic devices; (4) designating one of his offenses as a felony without a proper section 702 finding; and (5) failing to deduct his predisposition custody credits when calculating his maximum term of confinement. The Court of Appeal concluded the juvenile court erred in imposing an overly broad probation condition regarding electronic devices and in failing to deduct predisposition custody credits when determining M.F.'s maximum time of confinement. The Court reversed the disposition order in part, and remanded for the juvenile court to modify its order to include: (1) a more narrowly tailored probation condition, and (2) a deduction of M.F.'s predisposition custody credits in its determination of his maximum period of confinement. In all other respects, the Court affirmed the order. View "In re M.F." on Justia Law

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The District Attorney of El Dorado County convened a criminal grand jury and issued subpoenas to witnesses in connection with a peace officer's 2015 fatal shooting of a suspect, deliberately waiting until 2016 in order to challenge the Legislature's amendment of Penal Code section 917. On the motions of the real parties in interest South Lake Tahoe Police Officers' Association, the superior court issued orders quashing the District Attorney's subpoenas and dismissing the criminal grand jury. The District Attorney thereafter filed this petition in the name of the People seeking a writ of mandate directing the superior court to overturn its orders. The Court of Appeal granted leave to a number of amici to file arguments in support of the petition. After review of this matter, the Court concluded the legislative object could not be accomplished in this manner: "it intrudes on the constitutional grant of authority to the criminal grand jury to issue an indictment after inquiry, which taken to its logical conclusion would allow the Legislature by statute to abrogate indictments entirely for all classes of offenses. The Legislature instead must seek a constitutional amendment to accomplish the same end as section 917, or otherwise act to amend grand jury procedures in lethal force cases to achieve its objective of greater 'transparency' and accountability." View "California ex rel. v. Superior Court (South Lake Tahoe etc.)" on Justia Law

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In 2009, petitioner Anthony Cook, Jr. was convicted for two counts of murder and one count of attempted murder, for which he received a sentence of 125 years to life. Petitioner was 17 years old at the time of the crimes, and through petition for habeas relief, contended his sentence was unconstitutional under "Miller v. Alabama," (132 S.Ct. 2455 (2012)). In "In re Cook (Apr. 6, 2016, G050907) (nonpub. opn.), the Court of Appeal denied Petitioner's petition for writ of habeas corpus, concluding that based on "Montgomery v. Louisiana," (136 S.Ct. 718 (2016)), "Miller" applied retroactively to cases on collateral review but that recently enacted Penal Code sections 3051 and 4801 had the effect of curing the unconstitutional sentence imposed on Petitioner. In July 2016, the California Supreme Court granted Petitioner's petition for review of the Court of Appeals' opinion and transferred the matter with directions to vacate the decision and consider, in light of "California v. Franklin," (63 Cal.4th 261 (2016), "whether petitioner is entitled to make a record before the superior court of 'mitigating evidence tied to his youth.'" The Court of Appeals granted the petition insofar as the relief sought in the prayer of Petitioner's supplemental opening brief sought a hearing to allow Petitioner to make a record of mitigating evidence tied to his youth at the time of the offense. The matter was remanded with directions to the trial court to grant Petitioner a hearing at which he can make a record of such mitigating evidence. In doing so, the Court held that the relief afforded by "Franklin" was available by both direct review and petition for writ of habeas corpus. View "In re Cook" on Justia Law