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People v. Rounds (Cal. Ct. App., June 5, 2024, No. G063593) 2024 WL 2842208, at *1–2

Summary: Rounds, Jr., challenged the trial court’s denial of his petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon. (Pen. Code, § 4852.01 et seq.). The trial court considered factors that were irrelevant to the statutory criteria for evaluating a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation, including the nature of the underlying crime, the unfairness to the victims of granting the petition, and Rounds’s failure to plead guilty to a more serious charge. The court did not address the relevant statutory factors and did consider Rounds’s character and conduct in the nearly 40 years following the crime.

The trial court’s abuse of discretion amounts to a miscarriage of justice. The Court of Appeal reversed and published this opinion to clarify the factors the trial court may consider when evaluating a petition for a certificate of rehabilitation and pardon.

DAVID AUDISH, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. DAVID MACIAS et al., Defendants and Respondents. (Cal. Ct. App., May 21, 2024, No. D081689) 2024 WL 2860272

Summary: Plaintiff Audish appealed a civil judgment after a jury verdict in an automobile collision case. The jury found Audish and defendant David  both operated their vehicles negligently and each party’s negligence was a substantial factor in causing harm to Audish. The jury found Audish suffered $65,699.50 in damages, including $29,288.94 for past medical expenses, $3,620 for past non-economic losses, and $32,790.56 for future medical expenses, and it assigned each party 50 percent of the responsibility for these losses.

On appeal, Audish contends the trial court abused its discretion by admitting evidence that he would have Medicare medical insurance at the age of 65. He also argues the jury returned an impermissible compromise verdict and erred by failing to award him damages for future non-economic losses. The Court of Appeal rejected these claims and affirmed the judgment.

People v. Superior Court of Riverside County (Cal. Ct. App., May 30, 2024, No. D082865) 2024 WL 2761450, at *1

Summary: While under the influence of prescription painkillers, Chagolla led California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers on a 35-mile, high-speed chase that ended when Chagolla lost control of her vehicle, which crashed into the guardrail and came to rest, blocking the middle two lanes of traffic. Chagolla would not comply with CHP orders to exit her car. After 30 minutes, a CHP officer shot out one of the vehicle’s windows, and 10 minutes later, another officer extracted Chagolla from her car. About 45 minutes had elapsed since she crashed her vehicle. In custody, Chagolla seemed to be under the influence of some substance and was not very responsive. A subsequently performed blood test confirmed that Chagolla had ingested a large dose of oxycodone.

About 30 minutes after Chagolla’s vehicle came to rest in the middle of the I-10, a four-vehicle collision occurred about half a mile to a mile away from Chagolla’s vehicle. A tractor-trailer traveling five to 10 miles above the speed limit and whose driver was distracted looking for his sunglasses, hit another tractor-trailer, went out of control, hit a passenger vehicle, and then struck a second tractor-trailer and burst into flames, killing the driver of the last struck vehicle.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. TAKEYA LASHAY KOONTZY, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., May 23, 2024, No. A167703) 2024 WL 2350205

Summary: Koontzy (appellant) pled no contest to fleeing the scene of an injury accident (Veh. Code § 20001, subd. (a)) and was placed on probation with the condition that she pay victim restitution in an amount to be determined. Because of the victim’s delay in providing documentation of her damages and failure to appear on multiple dates set for restitution hearings, the trial court did not determine the amount of restitution before termination of appellant’s probation. More than two years post-termination, the court entered an order directing appellant to pay $86,306.12 in victim restitution.

Appellant contends the trial court was without authority to modify the amount of restitution owed to the victim following termination of probation. Appellant relies on People v. Martinez (2017) 2 Cal.5th 1093 (Martinez) to argue that the court’s jurisdiction to do so was not extended by Penal Code section 1202.46 because the restitution was not for losses incurred “as a result of the commission of a crime.” (§ 1202.4, subd. (a)(1).)  The case is distinguished from the decision in People v. McCune (2022) 81 Cal.App.5th 648, 651–652, review granted Oct. 26, 2022, S276303 (McCune), in which there was no dispute that the restitution was properly imposed under section 1202.4.

United States v. Anderson (9th Cir., May 2, 2024, No. 20-50345) 2024 WL 1920298

Warrantless searches by law enforcement for inventory purposes

Summary: Law enforcement may conduct warrantless inventory searches of impounded vehicles only if they are motivated by administrative purposes, and not solely by investigatory purposes. Here, an officer’s failure to comply with governing administrative procedures is relevant in assessing the officer’s motivation for conducting an inventory search.

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v. DAVID G. ARIAS, Defendant and Appellant. (Cal. Ct. App., May 10, 2024, No. A164789) 2024 WL 2103781, at *1

Summary: Arias was tried for two counts of sexual abuse committed against J. Doe, a child under 14 years old. During the trial, the defense brought a Batson/Wheeler1 motion challenging the prosecutor’s exercise of a peremptory strike against a prospective juror who was a Black woman. The trial court ruled that a prima facie case of discrimination was established, and the  prosecutor gave three reasons for the strike. The court then denied the motion without any discussion, stating only that it did not “think the challenge was based on racial animus or bias.” The jury convicted Arias and he was sentenced to 15 years to life in prison.

The Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court’s denial of the Batson/Wheeler motion was improper, because the prosecutor’s reasons for the strike do not withstand scrutiny. The first reason was that the juror would “empathize” more with defense experts than with a prosecution expert because her educational background was similar to that of the defense experts. But the prosecution expert’s educational background was essentially the same as the defense experts’. The second reason was that the juror had concerns about implicit bias and unfairness in the criminal justice system. A recent statute expressly renders such a reason presumptively invalid, the statute does not apply to this case because the jury was selected before its effective date. (Code Civ. Proc., § 231.7, subds. (e), (i).) But this reason, although facially race-neutral under then-governing law, did not independently justify the strike under the totality of the circumstances. The last reason was that the juror was “pretty opinionated” and might therefore be reluctant to deliberate. This concern was unlikely to have actually motivated the strike, however, because it was not applied to other potential jurors. Applying the Batson/Wheeler framework, the record lacks sufficient evidence on which the trial court could have reasonably relied to accept the prosecutor’s reasons for striking the juror without further explanation. The  error was structural, and the Court of Appeal reversed.

People v. Flores (Cal., May 2, 2024, No. S267522) 2024 WL 1919992, at *12

Background to detention

In May 2019, Officer Guy and his partner, Michael Marino, were on patrol in the area of Mariposa Avenue, a “known narcotic[s] area[ ]” and “gang hangout.” The officers drove by a cul-de-sac, and saw Flores standing alone in the street beside a Nissan parked at a red curb. Flores looked at the officers, walked around the back of the car, then “ducked” behind it. The officers pulled up and parked behind the Nissan. Flores bent over and faced away from the officers with both hands near his right shoe.  Marino trains his flashlight on Flores and he does not look around. He remains bent over and continues moving his hands near his feet. An officer  tells Flores to stand up. Flores remains bent over. Marino again directs Flores to stand. An officer tells Flores, “Your hands behind your head.” Flores complies and is directly placed in handcuffs.

People v. Koontzy (Cal. Ct. App., Apr. 25, 2024, No. A167703) 2024 WL 1794196, at *1

Summary: Koontzy (appellant) pled no contest to fleeing the scene of an injury accident (Veh. Code § 20001, subd. (a)) and was placed on probation with the condition that she pay victim restitution. Due to the victim’s delay in providing documentation of her damages and the victim’s failure to appear on multiple dates set for restitution hearings, the trial court did not determine the amount of restitution before termination of appellant’s probation. More than two years post-termination, the court entered ordered appellant to pay $86,306.12 in victim restitution.

Appellant contends the trial court was without authority to modify the amount of restitution owed to the victim following termination of probation. Appellant relies on People v. Martinez (2017) 2 Cal.5th 1093, 218 Cal.Rptr.3d 140, 394 P.3d 1066 (Martinez) to argue that the court’s jurisdiction to do so was not extended by Penal Code section 1202.46 because the restitution was not for losses incurred “as a result of the commission of a crime.” (§ 1202.4, subd. (a)(1).) The Court of Appeal agreed and distinguished this case from its decision in People v. McCune (2022) 81 Cal.App.5th 648, 651–652, review granted Oct. 26, 2022, S276303 (McCune), in which there was no dispute that the restitution was properly imposed under section 1202.4.

People v. Barooshian (Cal. Ct. App., Apr. 16, 2024, No. D081050) 2024 WL 1629664, at *1

Summary: Barooshian was  convicted him of murder (Pen. Code, § 187, subd. (a)) under a Watson murder theory. In People v. Watson (1981) 30 Cal.3d 290, (Watson), the California Supreme Court concluded that a person who kills another while driving under the influence of alcohol may be charged with second degree murder if the circumstances support a finding of implied malice. This is “informally known as a Watson murder.”

At Barooshian’s first trial, the jury did not reach a verdict on a murder charge but convicted Barooshian of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated (Pen. Code,2 § 191.5, subd. (a); Veh. Code, §§ 23140, 23152, 23153).

People v. Serrano (Cal. Ct. App., Mar. 28, 2024, No. A166011) 2024 WL 1320422, at *6–9

Exercise of Discretion Under Section 1385(c)

Serrano argued  that the trial court erred by failing to exercise its discretion under section 1385(c) to consider striking the jury’s premeditation and deliberation findings.

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