Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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Baldivia committed several criminal offenses when he was 17 years old. In a direct-filed adult criminal proceeding that had been initiated without a juvenile court fitness hearing, Baldivia pleaded no contest to four counts and admitted various enhancement allegations, including Penal Code section 12022.53 firearm enhancement allegations, in exchange for an agreed prison sentence of 17 years and four months and the dismissal of other counts and enhancement allegations. Proposition 57, which bars direct-filed adult criminal proceedings for juveniles and requires a juvenile fitness hearing before a juvenile case may be transferred to adult criminal court, took effect during the pendency of Baldivia’s appeal. The firearm enhancement statutes were also amended to grant courts discretion to strike such enhancements. Baldivia argued that he is entitled to a remand for a juvenile fitness hearing and, if he is found unfit for juvenile court and transferred to adult criminal court, a resentencing hearing at which the court may exercise its new discretion to strike the firearm enhancement. The court of appeal agreed. Baldivia may raise these issues on appeal despite his failure to obtain a certificate of probable cause in support of his appeal because the changes in the law were implicitly incorporated into his plea agreement--his contentions do not challenge the validity of his plea. The Attorney General conceded the merit of Baldivia’s contentions. View "People v. Baldivia" on Justia Law

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A jury found defendant Ezekiel Delgado guilty of two counts of first degree murder and one count of discharging a firearm at an occupied vehicle, found true a multiple-murder special circumstance and found that Delgado personally used a firearm, causing death. The trial court sentenced him to prison for a total unstayed term of 100 years to life. On appeal, defendant first claimed: (1) his inculpatory statements to the police should have been excluded on various grounds; (2) no substantial evidence supported the murder charge; (3) the trial court misinstructed on felony murder; (4) the trial court misinstructed on voluntary intoxication; (5) limits on the voluntary intoxication defense violate due process; and (6) he was entitled to a juvenile transfer hearing because of the passage of Proposition 57. The Attorney General conceded the last point. The Court of Appeal agreed with the parties that it had to remand for a juvenile transfer hearing, and agreed with defendant that, while on remand, the trial court should have the opportunity to consider exercising its newly acquired discretion regarding firearm enhancements. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court concluded the trial court erred in admitting some of defendant’s inculpatory admissions, but found the error harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Court disagreed with defendant’s remaining contentions of error, and remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Delgado" on Justia Law

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A juvenile wardship petition alleged 17-year-old Minor committed misdemeanor battery against Miguel. Minor had been found to have committed four previous offenses, including felony grand theft and misdemeanor possession of a weapon on school grounds. At a contested jurisdictional hearing, Miguel testified that he was walking home from school when Minor stood in front of him and stating, “I heard you were talking shit.” Miguel denied it. Minor punched Miguel on his face. Miguel told his father that he was tired of being beat up and that “the same guy that beat me up before beat me up this time.” He “didn’t want to be a snitch.” Miguel had a bump on his head and swelling underneath his eye. The juvenile court sustained the petition. Minor was enrolled in high school, and his behavior and attendance had been satisfactory. He was receiving special education services for speech and language deficits. He was attending individual counseling. He denied using alcohol or drugs; tests were negative for drug use. The court continued Minor as a ward of the court and committed him to a residential program followed by supervision and monitoring in the community, and imposed conditions of probation. The court of appeal affirmed, modifying one probation condition that would categorically prohibit Minor from all use of social networking sites, and remanded for the limited purpose of addressing Minor’s educational needs. View "In re L.O." on Justia Law

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In 1988, when he was 17 years old, Palmer pled guilty to kidnapping for robbery. Sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, Palmer has appeared before the Board of Parole Hearings 10 times, without success. In 2015, the Board deferred Palmer’s next hearing for five years. Palmer requested reconsideration, arguing that the Board had wrongfully refused to set his base term and an adjusted base term and failed to give “great weight” to the statutory youth offender factors: “the diminished culpability of youth as compared to that of adults, the hallmark features of youth, and any subsequent growth and increased maturity,” Pen. Code 3051(f)(1), 4801(c). The Board denied Palmer’s request, stating that appropriate weight had been given to the youth offender factors and that it would address the base term issue. No response was forthcoming. The court of appeal issued an order; the Board calculated Palmer’s base and adjusted base terms. In the meantime, the California Supreme Court relieved the Board of its obligations to calculate base terms and adjusted base terms and vacated the court of appeal’s determination with respect to Palmer. The court of appeal then held that Palmer is entitled to a new hearing due to the Board's failure to comply with a statutory mandate to give “great weight” to factors related to Palmer having been a minor when he committed his crime. View "In re Palmer" on Justia Law

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The subject of four 2014 juvenile petitions, G.C., claimed that the juvenile court erroneously failed to expressly declare her three 2014 Vehicle Code section 10851 violations for driving or taking a vehicle to be either felonies or misdemeanors. The dispositional order for the three 2014 section 10851 offenses was entered on November 19, 2015. G.C.’s notice of appeal was filed on February 1, 2016. The court of appeal dismissed that notice of appeal as untimely. G.C. raised no issues as to any other orders. The court published its opinion to express disagreement with the Fourth District Court of Appeal’s decision in In re Ramon M. which held that a failure to make an express declaration may be challenged in an appeal from a subsequent dispositional order. “The California Supreme Court has “steadfastly adhered to the fundamental precept that the timely filing of an appropriate notice of appeal or its legal equivalent is an absolute prerequisite to the exercise of appellate jurisdiction.” View "In re G.C." on Justia Law

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In 2017, the Public Guardian sought to establish a conservatorship of the person for Minor, age 16, who was admitted to John Muir Behavioral Health Center. Minor had been placed in the care of Alameda County’s Child Protective Services (CPS) over a year earlier and suffered multiple involuntary hospitalizations. She presented at John Muir “with suicidal ideation and poor impulse control.” The court appointed the Public Guardian as Minor’s temporary conservator. Trial testimony indicated that Minor suffered from PTSD, heard voices telling her she had no reason to live, had threatened to smother her roommate, engaged in “superficial self-injury,” and missed a lot of school. The court of appeal affirmed the order appointing the Public Guardian as the conservator of her person under the Lanterman-Petris-Short Act, Welf. & Inst. Code, 5000, rejecting arguments that the conservatorship investigator failed to conduct an investigation of all available alternatives to conservatorship; that the Public Guardian failed to prove she was gravely disabled; and that there was insufficient evidence to support her placement. There was sufficient evidence to support a finding of “grave disability” and that the placement was not more restrictive than necessary. View "Conservatorship of M.B." on Justia Law

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Defendant Richard Carter claimed cruel and unusual punishment in his sentence of 55 years to life in prison for a second-degree murder he committed at age 17, with personal use and discharge of a firearm causing death, possession of a firearm by a felon, and a prior strike conviction for robbery. The Attorney General acknowledged this sentence was the functional equivalent of a sentence of life in prison without possibility of parole (LWOP). To address defendant’s cruel and unusual punishment claim in the trial court, the trial court considered defendant’s youth in the context of considering whether to strike the prior conviction for purposes of three-strikes sentencing in furtherance of the interests of justice under Penal Code section 1385 and California v. Superior Court, 13 Cal.4th 497 (1996). This would have reduced the sentence to 40 years to life in prison. The trial court considered defendant’s youth but declined to strike the prior conviction, finding that although defendant was able to change, he was unwilling to do so. While this case was pending on appeal, the California Supreme Court held that a statute giving trial courts discretion to impose a sentence less than LWOP on a juvenile who commits special circumstance murder (Penal Code section 190.5) must be construed without a presumption in favor of LWOP (as previously construed by case law), in order that the statute not violate the Eighth Amendment. Other recent changes in law demand that the Court of Appeal not only vacate the sentence, but also conditionally reverse the conviction and remand to the trial court with directions to transfer the case to the juvenile court for a transfer hearing to determine the propriety of prosecution in adult criminal court had the case originally been filed in juvenile court. The Court so vacated and remanded for further proceedings. View "California v. Carter" on Justia Law

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Nineteen-year-old M.W. was a nonminor dependent of the court until it terminated dependency jurisdiction over him in August 2017. One of the acceptable living arrangements for nonminor dependents was a “‘[s]upervised independent living placement’” (SILP). The court terminated dependency jurisdiction over M.W. because he had moved in with a former foster mother, and the court believed a former caregiver’s home could not qualify as a SILP. The Court of Appeal determined the trial court erred: "Nothing in the law disqualifies a former caregiver’s home as a SILP. Even the document on which plaintiff and respondent, San Bernardino County Children and Family Services (CFS), relied for its argument—a form developed by the California Department of Social Services—does not disqualify a former caregiver’s home." The Court determined the error was prejudicial to M.W. and therefore reversed and remanded for the trial court to consider whether to retain or terminate dependency jurisdiction. View "In re M.W." on Justia Law

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Defendant Tom Phung was 17 years old when he and fellow Tiny Rascal Gang (TRG) members, riding in about five cars, chased a fleeing vehicle containing eight rival gang members. A TRG member two cars ahead shot and killed one rival and seriously wounded a second. A jury convicted defendant, as an aider and abettor, of the lesser included crime of second degree murder (count 1), attempted murder (count 2), shooting at an occupied motor vehicle (count 3), and street terrorism (count 4). With respect to the first three crimes, the jury found true the allegations that defendant committed them for the benefit of a criminal street gang, and vicariously discharged a firearm causing great bodily injury and death. Defendant was sentenced to an aggregate state prison term of 40 years to life. While defendant's appeal was pending, the electorate passed Proposition 57, the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016, which went into effect in November 2016. In March 2017, the Court of Appeal issued an opinion affirming the judgment against defendant. Defendant petitioned for review before the California Supreme Court. While that petition was pending, another panel of the Court of Appeal issued an opinion holding Proposition 57 operated retroactively under the rule announced in In re Estrada, 63 Cal.2d 740 (1965). Defendant’s counsel, however, was unaware of the filing of the concurrent appellate opinion, and did not raise the issue before the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court denied review, following which the Court of Appeal issued a remittitur. Defendant moved to recall the remittitur on the ground that his counsel had provided ineffective assistance of counsel in failing to raise the retroactivity of Proposition 57 to his own case. Defendant’s counsel admitted the error. The motion was granted, the remittitur recalled, and supplemental briefing was ordered. The Court of Appeal ultimately affirmed defendant's conviction, but concluded Proposition 57 applied retroactively to defendant. Therefore, the Court reversed and remanded this case for a transfer hearing and resentencing. View "California v. Phung" on Justia Law

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Minor A.R. (the Minor) challenged a dispositional order committing him to the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Division of Juvenile Justice (hereafter, DJJ). At the time of the disposition hearing, the Minor was 18 years old. His history with the juvenile justice system began when he was 13 years old, and a petition was first filed against him. In 2012, he admitted two counts of residential burglary. and was declared a ward. Since then, he would be charged with various property crimes, culminating with burglary, robbery and use of a deadly weapon. He admitted to several probation violations, leading to the commitment order at issue here. The Minor argued the juvenile court abused its discretion in committing him to DJJ, on the grounds there was no substantial evidence that a less restrictive placement would be inappropriate or ineffective. He also argued the court erred by applying his custody credits to the overall maximum term of confinement, instead of the lower maximum term set by the court. In a supplemental brief, Minor argued there was no substantial evidence of probable benefit from the DJJ commitment, citing a recently decided case, In re Carlos J., 22 Cal.App.5th 1 (2018). The Court of Appeal rejected these contentions and affirmed the judgment. View "In re A.R." on Justia Law