Justia Constitutional Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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A jury convicted defendant Douglas Stout of attempted carjacking, attempted kidnapping, criminal threats, carrying a loaded firearm with the intent to commit a felony, possession of a firearm by a felon, assault with a semiautomatic firearm, and possession of ammunition by a felon. The jury found true allegations that defendant personally used a forearm in the commission of the enumerated felonies, and he had prior prison terms and on-bail enhancements. The trial court imposed a state prison term of 35 years and four months, encompassing three different cases. Defendant raised multiple challenges to his conviction and sentence. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal agreed with defendant and the Attorney General that the firearm use enhancement on the count 4 conviction for carrying a loaded firearm with the intent to commit a felony had to be stricken. In the unpublished portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal concluded the asserted instructional error was harmless, and one of defendant’s convictions for possession of a firearm by a felon had to be reversed. The case was remanded for the trial court to exercise its discretion whether to strike the firearm use enhancements pursuant to Senate Bill 620, and directed the trial court on remand to stay sentence on the count 1 conviction for attempted carjacking and its associated firearm use enhancement, unless the trial court decides to strike the enhancement. The Court noted a clerical error in the abstract of judgment; because the trial court must recalculate the aggregate sentence on remand, the Court did not address defendant’s fifth contention that the trial court miscalculated defendant’s sentence. View "California v. Stout" on Justia Law

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Emmanuel Jose Centeno pled guilty to assault with a semiautomatic firearm, robbery, and possession of more than 28.5 grams of marijuana. Centeno also admitted allegations as to counts 1 and 2 that he personally used a firearm in committing the offenses within the meaning of Penal Code section 12022.5(a). The trial court sentenced Centeno to prison for three years on count 1 and stayed his sentence for count 2. Under Penal Code section 1385, the court struck the gun enhancements for purposes of sentencing. In addition, for count 3, the court imposed credit for time served. Centeno appealed, contending the trial court abused its discretion by failing to grant him probation. In the alternative, Centeno argued the court erroneously failed to recognize its discretion to strike count 2 (robbery). Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "California v. Centeno" on Justia Law

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John Calhoun recruited 13-year-old D.T. into prostitution, acted as her pimp, treated her violently, and engaged in sex acts with her. A jury convicted him of human trafficking of a minor, pimping a minor under the age of 16, pandering a minor under the age of 16, lewd and lascivious acts on a child under the age of 14, unlawful sexual intercourse, and oral copulation of a child under the age of 14. The trial court sentenced him to 15 years to life in prison with a consecutive term of six years for one count of committing a lewd and lascivious act on a child under the age of 14 and a consecutive term of two years for another count of the same offense. In affirming Calhoun's convictions, the Court of Appeal concluded: (1) the trial court did not err by excluding evidence of D.T.’s acts of prostitution occurring after Calhoun was placed in custody; (2) the evidence at the preliminary hearing imparted notice to Calhoun of the factual basis for counts 6 and 7 sufficient to satisfy due process; (3) venue in Orange County was proper; (4) the trial court did not err by admitting evidence of certain text messages; (5) expert testimony on statements made by D.T. during a police interview and on the content of text messages was admissible and any error was harmless; and (6) the trial court did stay execution of sentence on counts 2, 3, and 5 pursuant to Penal Code section 654. View "California v. Calhoun" on Justia Law

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In 1995, defendant-appellant Hermando Antonio-Vega Hernandez pled guilty to burglary in violation of Penal Code section 4591 on facts that included his entering a convenience store and stealing $18 of beer. He was sentenced to two years in prison. When California voters passed Proposition 47 in 2014, they enacted section 459.5, which defined the new offense of shoplifting as any theft of property valued at $950 or less from a commercial establishment during business hours and which required that any such offense be charged as misdemeanor shoplifting, not felony burglary. Proposition 47 also allowed defendants to file petitions to recharacterize prior felony convictions that would have been misdemeanors under the law as changed by the initiative. In 2017, relying on that provision, defendant filed a petition seeking to have his felony burglary conviction designated as misdemeanor shoplifting in violation of section 459.5. The trial court denied the petition, because, based on police reports in the trial court record, it found defendant entered the store with the intent to commit robbery in violation of Penal Code section 211, rather than merely with the intent to commit a low-value theft. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding that after Proposition 47, an offense was shoplifting, not burglary, if it involved “entering a commercial establishment with intent to commit larceny while that establishment is open during regular business hours, where the value of the property that is taken or intended to be taken does not exceed nine hundred fifty dollars ($950). . . . no one who is charged with shoplifting may also be charged with burglary or theft of the same property.” View "California v. Hernandez" on Justia Law

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A jury convicted appellants Jason Hernandez and Christi Kopp of conspiracy to commit murder (count 3), conspiracy to dissuade a witness (count 4), and furnishing a controlled substance (count 5). The jury also convicted Hernandez of assault with a deadly weapon (count 1) and assault by means likely to produce great bodily injury (count 2). In a bifurcated proceeding, Hernandez admitted, and the trial court found true, he was previously convicted of a violent and serious felony. The court ultimately sentenced Hernandez to prison for 81 years to life. The court sentenced Kopp to prison for four years plus 25 years to life. Pertinent here, the Court of Appeal agreed with appellants that the trial court erred in failing to sua sponte instruct the jury to determine whether there existed one or two conspiracies. As such, Appellants' convictions under count 4 were reversed and their respective sentences vacated. The Court rejected Hernandez's other substantive arguments in his opening brief as well as Kopp's argument that section 654 mandated the trial court to stay her sentence under count 5. While this case was pending, Hernandez successfully moved to file a supplemental brief. He argued that Senate Bill No. 1393 amended Penal Code sections 667 (a) and 1385 to allow the trial court discretion to strike an enhancement. Hernandez maintains, and the People agreed, this matter should have been remanded to allow the superior court to resentence Hernandez consistent with this change in the law. Because the Court of Appeal vacated Hernandez's sentence as a result of reversing his conviction under count 4, the trial court could exercise its discretion under Senate Bill No. 1393 during resentencing. While on remand, the Court ordered the trial court to hold an ability to pay hearing for both Appellants consistent with the dictates of this opinion. Additionally, the trial court could consider Appellants' argument that the punitive fines violate the excessive fines clause, if that issue was raised. View "California v. Kopp" on Justia Law

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This appeal stemmed from Janice Dickinson's public allegations that William Cosby drugged and raped her in 1982. On remand, Cosby filed a second anti-SLAPP motion seeking to strike claims newly asserted in Dickinson's first amended complaint, and the trial court granted the motion in part, refusing to strike Dickinson's claims premised on two allegedly defamatory statements appearing in press releases issued by Cosby's attorney. The Court of Appeal declined to consider Cosby's arguments related to the November 18 demand letter and November 19 press release, because this court previously determined that issue in Dickinson's favor and Cosby was improperly seeking a second bite at the apple by challenging those claims in his latest anti-SLAPP motion. The court also held that the trial court properly denied Cosby's anti-SLAPP motion, because there was sufficient evidence showing Cosby was directly liable for the alleged defamatory statements contained in the November 20 and 21 press releases; Dickinson produced sufficient evidence showing the November 20 and 21 press release were of and concerning her; and Dickinson produced sufficient evidence showing the November 20 and 21 press releases contained actionable assertions of fact. Accordingly, the court affirmed the judgment. View "Dickinson v. Cosby" on Justia Law

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Defendant Kayvon Patton pleaded guilty to grand theft of personal property and was sentenced to three years of formal probation. Among the conditions of probation was a condition subjecting his electronic devices to warrantless search. Patton challenged this condition as unreasonable under California v. Lent, 15 Cal.3d 481 (1975) and unconstitutionally overbroad. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the electronic device search condition was properly imposed. Patton pleaded guilty to stealing electronic devices, cell phones and other items, so that he could buy drugs. “There is a direct and manifestly reasonable relationship between the electronic device search condition and both the crime of which Patton was convicted as well as the underlying reasons for his criminal behavior such that the condition will assist in preventing future criminality. And while searches of electronic devices surely implicate privacy interests, a condition of probation permitting examination of such devices without a warrant is not unconstitutionally overbroad on its face.” View "California v. Patton" on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal affirmed the trial court's denial of a petition for writ of mandate seeking to set aside plaintiff's expulsion from Occidental College after an outside adjudicator found he had sexually assaulted and engaged in non-consensual sexual contact with another student. The court held that there was no violation of the school policy's notice requirements; there was no procedural unfairness where plaintiff was not prejudice when the policy's 60 day guideline for hearings was exceeded, he had access to all of the evidence against him, and he forfeited his contention that the adjudicator was biased; and there was no abuse of discretion in finding that plaintiff violated the policy by having nonconsensual sexual contact with the student View "Doe v. Occidental College" on Justia Law

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Mary H. was attacked and robbed at home in the early hours of the morning. A jury found defendants Heaven Turner and Michael Rafferty guilty of first degree robbery; Turner was also found Turner guilty of mayhem. Defendants respectively raised several arguments on appeal. Turner argued the trial court prejudicially erred in failing to instruct the jury sua sponte that the infliction of great bodily injury is a required element to prove mayhem and that, like the disfigurement theory of mayhem, permanent injury was required to prove mayhem under the “slit of the lip” theory. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal rejected Turner’s instructional error claims. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court further rejected Turner’s arguments that: (1) defense counsel was ineffective for failing to request a modification of the mayhem instruction; (2) the prosecutor committed prosecutorial error during closing argument; (3) the prosecutorial error and the instructional error cumulatively violated her due process rights; (4) her sentence violates Penal Code1 section 654; and (5) the trial court erred in denying her request to admit her whole interview with a police officer under Evidence Code section 356. Also in the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court rejected Rafferty’s contention that the trial court abused its discretion in denying his motion for mistrial and concluded he forfeited his joinder in Turner’s arguments. The case was remanded, however, for the trial court to consider exercising its discretion to strike Rafferty’s five-year enhancement under Penal Code section 667(a). View "California v. Turner" on Justia Law

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Health and Safety Code section 1418.8 concerns nursing home residents who lack the capacity to make their own health care decisions and are without family members or other legal surrogates. The superior court held that the statute, on its face, violates due process under the California Constitution by failing to require notice to residents of a physician’s predicate determinations that the patient lacks capacity, has no surrogate decision-maker, needs a recommended medical intervention, and has a right to judicial review; was never intended to authorize interdisciplinary team (IDT) decision-making for administration of antipsychotic medication, and violates due process, as applied, when used to authorize such drugs; and violates the patient’s privacy rights and is unconstitutional as applied to decisions regarding end of life withdrawal of care. The court of appeal reversed, construing the statute to uphold its constitutionality rather than enjoining its use, and directing the superior court to enter a modified judgment, requiring nursing homes to adopt additional procedures. Written and oral notice must be provided to every resident for whom section 1418.8 is invoked, of any determination of the resident’s incapacity; any determination that no surrogate decision-maker is available; any proposed medical intervention; the fact that a decision will be made by the IDT; the resident’s right to have a patient representative participate in IDT decision-making; and the resident’s right to judicial review of IDT decisions. Except in emergency circumstances, no medical treatment decision by an IDT on behalf of a resident may be implemented until the resident has been given a reasonable opportunity to seek judicial review. Except in emergency circumstances, every IDT must include a patient representative, and where the resident has no family or friend willing to serve, someone unaffiliated with the nursing home must serve as the patient representative. The IDT process may be used to authorize the administration of antipsychotic medications and for decisions to create or change physician orders for life-sustaining treatment, DNRs or comfort care orders, and to transfer patients to hospice care. View "California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform v. Smith" on Justia Law