Articles Posted in California Courts of Appeal

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At age of 19, defendant Montrell Woods shot Kenny Hernandez to death during a confrontation between the two men at an apartment complex. A jury found defendant guilty of second degree murder and of being a felon in possession of a firearm and also found he personally discharged a firearm causing death. The trial court sentenced defendant to a term of 15 years to life for the murder and to a consecutive term of 25 years to life for the firearm enhancement under Penal Code section 12022.53. At the time of defendant’s sentencing, the enhancement statute provided that “[n]otwithstanding [Penal Code s]ection 1385 or any other provision of law, the court shall not strike an allegation under this section or a finding bringing a person within the provisions of this section.” On appeal, defendant argued the trial court erred by failing to bifurcate the possession of a firearm charge from the murder charge, the court erroneously excluded evidence of the victim’s propensity for violence, the prosecutor committed two acts of misconduct, the court committed multiple instances of instructional error, and cumulative error resulted. Defendant also argued should have been remanded to the trial court so that he can make an adequate record for a future youth offender parole hearing and so that the trial court can exercise its discretion as to whether to strike the firearm enhancement based on a recent change to Penal Code section 12022.53 that took effect on January 1, 2018. In the unpublished portion of its opinion, the Court of Appeal found no merit to defendant’s claims of trial court error and prosecutorial misconduct. In the published portion of its opinion, the Court concluded defendant already had sufficient opportunity to make a record of information relevant to his eventual youth offender parole hearing, but agree that remand was necessary to allow the trial court to exercise its discretion as to whether to strike the firearm enhancement under the recent amendment to Penal Code section 12022.53. View "California v. Woods" on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a dispositional order entered after the juvenile court sustained allegations that he committed misdemeanor sexual battery when he touched the breast of a female high school classmate. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the condition of probation forbidding him from using, owning or possessing depictions of nudity was unconstitutionally overbroad. View "In re Carlos C." on Justia Law

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Defendant appealed a dispositional order entered after the juvenile court sustained allegations that he committed misdemeanor sexual battery when he touched the breast of a female high school classmate. In the published portion of the opinion, the Court of Appeal held that the condition of probation forbidding him from using, owning or possessing depictions of nudity was unconstitutionally overbroad. View "In re Carlos C." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reduced D.N.'s adjudication for felony theft of a vehicle pursuant to Vehicle Code 10851 to a misdemeanor, because the People failed to prove the value of the stolen vehicle exceeded $950. The court held that the People should have been well aware the value of the stolen vehicle was relevant on whether the offense was a felony. The People should have been on notice as of November 5, 2014, the date Proposition 47 and Penal Code 490.2 went into effect, that vehicle theft under Vehicle Code section 10851 was to be a misdemeanor unless the value of the stolen vehicle exceeded $950. View "In re D.N." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed a two-year restraining order against Jonathan V, because he did not receive adequate notice of or a hearing on the People's application for the restraining order. In this juvenile case, defense counsel walked into court for a trial setting conference and was given "notice" by the prosecutor that the People were going to seek a two-year restraining order against her client, Jonathan V. Jonathan V. did not receive adequate notice or an adequate opportunity to be heard to contest the issuance of the order. View "In re Jonathan V." on Justia Law

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School administrator Cushman received a text message indicating that a student had a loaded gun at school. The tipster had received a SnapChat video showing a student, in a classroom, displaying a gun and a magazine clip. Cushman saw the video and identified the student as K.J., based on the tipster's description. The principal removed K.J. from class and escorted him to the hallway where a school resource officer and a backup police officer were waiting. A search of K.J. revealed a semi-automatic handgun and rounds of ammunition. Cushman knew but declined to reveal the tipster's identity due to her fear of retaliation. The parties stipulated that she would be treated as an anonymous tipster. Following a combined motion to suppress and jurisdictional hearing, the juvenile court sustained a petition alleging K.J. possessed a weapon on school grounds. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting K.J.’s argument that he was detained and searched without reasonable suspicion. Substantial evidence supported findings that the actions of the school officer, detaining K.J. on school property, were neither arbitrary, capricious, nor harassment. In balancing the grave threat to students and staff posed by a student carrying a firearm against the minimally intrusive nature of removing a student from class, the detention was lawful. View "In re K.J." on Justia Law

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San Pablo Police Officer Niemi determined that an Acura parked on the street was stolen. C.D. pulled the Acura into the street. Niemi followed. Officers Hearn and Dimercurio arrived. The three activated the lights of their patrol cars. Hearn pointed his gun at C.D. and shouted commands. C.D. stepped on the gas pedal and drove the Acura through the gap between Hearn’s patrol car and another car. Niemi saw the Acura strike the door of Hearn’s car as Hearn “pushed himself up against the frame ... as the driver door closed on his body.” Hearn fired several shots. The Acura hit a fence. A shot hit C.D, who lost an eye. Hearn was not injured and no documented repairs were made to his patrol car. The district attorney filed a juvenile court petition, alleging assault with a deadly weapon upon a peace officer; assault upon a peace officer by means of force likely to produce great bodily injury; and taking or driving a vehicle without the owner’s permission. The trial court found all three counts true. The court of appeal held that one count must be reversed because Penal Code 245(c), describes a single offense that can be committed two separate ways. The evidence was sufficient to support one true finding of assault under section 245(c). The trial court properly denied C.D.’s motion to disclose police personnel records. View "In re C.D." on Justia Law

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Father challenged the juvenile court’s jurisdictional finding that his two children, ages 11 and 14, were at substantial risk of serious physical harm due to his use of methamphetamine and the dispositional order removing the children from his custody. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting Father’s argument that, although he is a “user” of methamphetamine he is not an “abuser” of it. His and Mother’s drug use has resulted in recurrent legal problems, namely, the current and prior dependency matters. Even though he received a negative test in 2009, Father admitted he used methamphetamine while the dependency matter was ongoing. He was unable to stop despite fearing that his children would be taken away from him. Despite Father’s claim that the children are “doing well,” substantial evidence supported a finding that there was a risk of serious physical harm to the children from his methamphetamine abuse. The juvenile court found by clear and convincing evidence that substantial danger exists to the physical health of the children and there are no reasonable means to protect them without removal from their parents’ custody; the finding comports with Welfare and Institutions Code section 361. View "In re Alexzander C." on Justia Law

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The Court of Appeal reversed the juvenile court's order recommitting defendant to the Division of Juvenile Facilities (DJF) pursuant to Welfare and Institutions Code section 707, subdivision (b). In this case, DJJ rejected the initial commitment—which was ordered following a violation of probation—because it was based on a section 602 petition in which the most recent offense was not a DJF-qualifying offense. The juvenile court then granted the prosecutor's motion to dismiss the no-qualifying offense and ordered the recommitment. The court agreed with defendant that the juvenile court erred in granting the prosecution's post-disposition motion to dismiss count 2 of his section 602 petition for the sole purpose of rendering him eligible for a DJF commitment. View "In re A.O." on Justia Law

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In 2013, the juvenile court declared defendant-appellant, R.G. (Minor, born in April 2000), a dependent of the court. In 2016, while Minor remained a dependent of the juvenile court, the State filed a juvenile wardship petition alleging Minor had committed misdemeanor battery. After denying Minor’s request to refer the matter for a Welfare and Institutions Code section 241.12 assessment and report, Minor admitted the allegation that she had committed misdemeanor battery. The court declared Minor a ward of the court, placed her on formal probation, placed her in the custody of Children and Family Services (CFS), and scheduled the matter for a hearing pursuant to section 241.1. After subsequently receiving a section 241.1 report, the court again declared Minor a ward of the court with “CFS lead jurisdiction.” On appeal, Minor contended the juvenile court prejudicially erred by refusing to refer the matter for a section 241.1 assessment, report, and hearing prior to taking jurisdiction, resulting in violations of Minor’s statutory and due process rights. Moreover, Minor argued the subsequent section 241.1 report and hearing were statutorily inadequate. CFS countered Minor forfeited any contention the section 241.1 report was untimely or inadequate and that any error was harmless. The Court of Appeal reversed, finding the court erred by refusing to refer the matter for a section 241.1 report prior to making a determination of Minor’s status and holding the jurisdictional hearing. Furthermore, the subsequent section 241.1 report was inadequate to overcome the court’s initial error, and this error was not harmless. View "In re R.G." on Justia Law