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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.

Knudsen v. Department of Motor Vehicles (Cal. Ct. App., Apr. 4, 2024, No. F085992) 2024 WL 1453228, at *1

Summary: Knudsen appealed the suspension of his driver’s license at an administrative per se (APS) hearing. A hearing officer for the Department of Motor Vehicles (“DMV”) concluded that Knudsen had driven his car with a blood-alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or greater. Knudsen challenged the hearing officer’s decision through a writ of mandate in the Kern County Superior Court. The writ of mandate was denied, and the suspension sustained, by the trial court. On appeal, Knudsen argues in part that his state and federal due process rights were violated because the hearing officer who conducted the APS hearing was not constitutionally impartial.

California DUI Lawyers Assn. v. DMV (2022) 77 Cal.App.5th 517, 532–533. (DUI Lawyers) held that an administrative public hearing officer who acts as both an advocate and adjudicator violates a driver’s due process right to an impartial adjudicator. How to resolve a driver’s due process challenge to an APS hearing following DUI Lawyers has not been addressed by California courts. The Court of Appeal concluded that to resolve such a challenge, it is first necessary to determine whether a particular driver’s due process right to an impartial adjudicator was violated. According to DUI Lawyers, that determination is made by assessing the administrative record and the revocation decision to see if the public hearing officer actually acted as both an adjudicator and an advocate, or merely acted as an adjudicator and a collector and developer of evidence. If the relevant documents demonstrate that the public hearing officer did not act as an advocate, then the driver’s due process right to an impartial adjudicator was not violated, and the constitutional issue is resolved. If the relevant documents demonstrate that a public hearing officer actually acted as an advocate, then the driver’s due process right to an impartial adjudicator is violated. In the latter circumstance, because we conclude that a violation of the due process right to an impartial adjudicator is a structural error, then the driver is entitled to a new APS hearing before a constitutionally impartial adjudicator.

The PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent, v.FREETOWN HOLDINGS COMPANY et al., Defendants and Appellants.2024 WL 1325949 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.), 1

Summary: The People of the State of California sued Holiday Liquor for enabling a public nuisance claiming the store allowed illegal drug buyers and sellers to meet for sales. Holiday tolerated loitering and drug dealing, had no guards, stayed open until 2 a.m., and sold alcohol in cheap single-serving containers. The trial court granted summary judgment for the People and ordered Holiday to hire guards, to stop selling single-serving containers of alcohol, and to take other actions. The Court of Appeal affirmed.

The People filed a complaint describing ongoing drug dealing and gang-related violence within and in front of Holiday. The complaint asserted violations of (1) sections 11570 et seq. of the Health and Safety Code (the drug house law), (2) sections 3479 et seq. of the Civil Code (the public nuisance law), and (3) sections 17200 et seq. of the Business and Professions Code (the unfair competition law).

People v Felix, 2024 WL 979674 (Cal.App. 2 Dist.)

Summary: Felix was arrested in Utah after being stopped for a traffic violation. He consented to a search of his car which resulted in the recovery of a handgun, ammunition and over five kilograms of methamphetamine. While in custody in Utah on drug charges, Felix became a suspect in two murders that occurred in Southern California. After his return to, California, Felix invoked his right to counsel while being interviewed by the detectives investigating one of the murders. Felix was placed in a cell with an undercover detective to whom he made incriminating statements about both murders. The trial court denied defendant’s motion to suppress the evidence recovered during the Utah traffic stop and admitted, over his objection, his incriminating statements made to the undercover agent. Felix was found  guilty of two counts of first degree murder.

On appeal, Felix contends the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the evidence recovered from the warrantless search of his car and in admitting his statements to the undercover agent because he had previously invoked his right to counsel while being interviewed by detectives. The Court of Appeal  affirmed the judgment of conviction.

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